AP Explains: What’s Next for Trump’s Supreme Court Pick?

President Donald Trump speaks as he announces Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden at the White House, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Washington. (AP)
Mary Clare Jalonick
The Associated Press

Washington – President Donald Trump has chosen Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sending the nomination to the Senate with hopes of a quick confirmation fewer than 40 days before the presidential election.

Republicans are eyeing a vote in late October, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t yet said for certain whether a final vote will come before or after the Nov. 3 election.

A confirmation vote so close to a presidential election would be unprecedented, creating significant political risk and uncertainty for both parties. Early voting is underway in some states in the races for the White House and control of Congress.

A look at the confirmation process and what we know and don’t know about what’s to come:

Who Is Amy Coney Barrett?

Barrett has been a federal judge in Indiana since 2017, when Trump nominated her to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

She was previously a longtime University of Notre Dame law professor and clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom she called her “mentor” as she accepted Trump’s nomination on Saturday. At age 48, she would be the youngest justice on the current court if confirmed.

Barrett’s three-year judicial record shows a clear and consistent conservative bent. She is a committed Roman Catholic as well as a firm devotee of Scalia’s favored interpretation of the Constitution known as originalism.

Republicans have widely praised her, while Democrats worry her votes could chip away at the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and erode health care protections. They argue that her philosophy is too conservative and rigid.

What Happens Next?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham says his panel will hold four days of confirmation hearings the week of Oct. 12.

Once the committee approves the nomination, it goes to the Senate floor for a final vote. This could all happen by Nov. 3 if the process goes smoothly. Graham said he hopes the committee can move the nomination to the Senate floor by the week of Oct. 26 for a confirmation vote.

Barrett is expected to make her first appearance on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, meeting with McConnell, Graham and other members.

Will There Be a Vote Before the Election?

Republicans are privately aiming to hold the final vote the last week of October, but acknowledge the tight timeline and say they will need to see how the hearings go. McConnell has been careful not to say when he believes the final confirmation vote will happen, other than “this year.”

Senate Republicans are mindful of their last confirmation fight in 2018, when Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of a teenage sexual assault almost derailed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. The process took longer than expected after Republicans agreed to allow Ford to testify. Kavanaugh, who denied the allegations, was eventually confirmed in a 50-48 vote.

Does the Senate Have Enough Votes?

McConnell does appear to have the votes, for now. Republicans control the Senate by a 53-47 margin, meaning he could lose up to three Republican votes and still confirm a justice, if Vice President Mike Pence were to break a 50-50 tie.

At this point, McConnell seems to have lost the support of two Republicans – Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, both of whom have said they don’t think the Senate should take up the nomination before the election. Collins has said the next president should fill the court seat, and she will vote “no” on Trump’s nominee on principle.

Can Democrats Stop the Vote?

There isn’t much they can do. Republicans are in charge, make the rules and say they have the votes.

Democrats have vowed to oppose the nomination, and they are likely to use an assortment of delaying tactics. None of those efforts can stop the nomination, though.

How Long Does Confirmation Usually Take?

Supreme Court nominations have taken around 70 days to move through the Senate, though the last, of Kavanaugh, took longer, and others have taken less time. The election is a little over a month away.

Could the Senate Act After the Election?

Yes. Republicans could still vote on Trump’s nominee in what’s known as the lame-duck session that takes place after the November election and before the next Congress takes office on Jan. 3.

 No matter what happens in this year’s election, Republicans are still expected to be in charge of the Senate during that period. The Senate would have until Jan. 20, the date of the presidential inauguration, to act on Trump’s nominee. If Trump were reelected and Barrett had not been confirmed by the inauguration, he could renominate her as soon as his second term began.

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