As many expected, Senate Republicans voted along party lines Monday night to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the newest Justice of the Supreme Court.
The vote, which was part of an effort by Republicans to fast-track the confirmation after the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just over one month ago, cemented a clear conservative majority for the Court. As Blavity previously reported, various media outlets and social media users have raised a number of objections about Barrett's qualifications, but none of these prevented President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from pushing through the nomination and confirmation.
Republicans celebrated the accomplishment. Shortly after the final vote, President Trump hosted a swearing-in ceremony for now Justice Barrett. Pretending to learn a lesson from the White House event that surrounded her nomination and became a superspreader event for COVID-19 (possibly infecting the president himself or allowing him to spread his infection to others), most of those at Monday night’s ceremony wore masks and practiced social distancing. The House GOP Judiciary Committee, which wasn't run by catty teens last we checked, still tweeted a message to Hillary Clinton (who, remember, is not running for anything) to note that Barrett’s confirmation came on Secretary Clinton’s birthday.
Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed. Happy Birthday, @HillaryClinton!
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) October 27, 2020
Secretary Clinton, for her part, painted the confirmation of Barrett as a threat to healthcare and urged voters to vote out the Senate GOP members.
Senate Republicans just pushed through a Supreme Court justice who will help them take away Americans' health care in the middle of a pandemic.
For them, this is victory.
Vote them out.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 27, 2020
Senator Kamala Harris told a reporter of the confirmation that “we won’t forget this,” according to the Hill. While Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, meanwhile endorsed the plan by progressive Democrats to expand the number of justices who serve on the Supreme Court and fill the new slots with liberal appointees.
Expand the court.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 27, 2020
While we won’t know for some time if Democrats will end up changing the composition of the Supreme Court, Barrett’s addition is likely to have significant impact very soon. Here are five groups whose lives may now be at stake with Barrett's newly appointed authority:
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, one week after the election. President Trump has long sought to get rid of Obamacare – and, honestly, undo everything that President Obama did, because Trump is petty AF.
Barrett, for her part, has in the past criticized the previous Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act, partially because it doesn’t fit with her philosophy of interpreting the Constitution as it was understood when it was written a very long time ago.. Despite the fact that taking away people’s healthcare in the middle of a global pandemic is both cruel and bad politics, the Trump-led GOP has been determined to do just that, and Justice Barrett may have given them the votes to do so.
Roe v. Wade is another decision that Barrett has criticized in the past. She both opposes the decision on legal principles and, in line with her Conservative Evangelical Catholic faith, considers abortion “immoral.” She also signed a 2006 newspaper advertisement opposing “abortion on demand,” according to the New York Times.
However, Justice Barrett has regularly indicated that her personal faith will not impacted her legal decisions. She’s also speculated that the Supreme Court wouldn’t outright change “Roe’s core holding that women have a right to an abortion,” though it is unclear whether this reflected her preference or simply a guess on how other justices would rule. Nevertheless, abortion has long been the number one issue for many Republicans when it comes to court appointments, so it is unlikely that Trump would have nominated Barrett unless he felt that she would deliver on striking down Roe.
Sexual assault survivors
Earlier this month, several famous actresses associated with the Times Up movement against sexual assault and harassment, issued a statement that Judge Barrett had a history of “rul[ing] against survivors of rape, instead siding with powerful abusers and the powerful institutions that enable them.”
They based their criticism on two rulings from Barrett. In 2018, Barrett voted to overturn a multi-million dollar award that had been granted to a 19-year-old who was raped and impregnated by a prison guard. Barrett argued that the prison could not be held liable for its employee’s sexual assaults because they were not part of his official duties.
In a separate case, Barrett ruled in favor of a male Purdue University student who was accused of raping a female classmate, ruling that the university had discriminated against the male student in its internal deliberations about the case, which ended with the university suspending him for one year. Combined, these rulings indicate that Barrett sets a very high bar for sexual assault cases.
Anyone not white
The Trump Administration has been busy denying that systemic racism exists and banning anti-racist tools such as critical race theory and cultural sensitivity training. The administration is also suing Yale over its Affirmative Action policies. This suit is similar to the one against Harvard that was rejected last year; the Trump Department of Justice is also supporting an appeal of that decision.
Barrett does not have a clear record on Affirmative Action. Looking at discrimination more broadly, her record is mixed. One the one hand, she has cited the Brown v. Board of Education case that struck down school segregation as one of a handful of “superprecedents," which are decisions so important the Supreme Court would never overturn them.
On the other hand, Barrett, in a case involving an employee that was called a "n***r" by his employer, ruled that the employee did not prove that being called the slur by his boss automatically created a “hostile work environment.” She did specify any reasonable scenario in which such a statement wouldn’t create a hostile work environment.
Plus, her mentor and judicial role model, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that sections of the Voting Rights Act created a “racial entitlement," — a legal-sounding way of arguing that anti-racist laws are themselves racist – which all adds up to Barrett likely being very skeptical of any laws seeking to combat racism.
Over the past several weeks, the conservative majority of the Court has issued rulings that have restricted voting rights or denied expanded voting options in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas for the current election. Earlier this month, the Court tied 4-4 on a case concerning mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. The tie left in place a rule that will count mail in ballots in that state that are received up to three days after Election Day, but Republicans, who have far too often not been fans of allowing people to actually vote, have refiled the case, hoping that Barrett will cast the deciding vote in their favor.
Furthermore, many people on both sides think that disputes over the presidential election could end up going to the Supreme Court, as happened with the Bush v. Gore case of 2000. Barrett herself was involved in the 2000 case, assisting the Bush legal team. As CNN reports, current Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts were also part of the extended Bush legal team for the case. Add in Justice Clarence Thomas, who sided with Bush in 2000, and Justice Neil Gorsuch, another Trump appointee, and the Court now has a clear majority that seems inclined to side with President Trump in an election dispute. President Trump himself has indicated that this was one motivation for pushing through Barrett’s nomination, and the new justice has declined to recuse herself from any case about the election.
These are just some of the issues that Justice Barrett could end up swinging in a conservative or Republican direction over the next few months.
Her lifetime appointment gives her the opportunity to influence many of the most important legal and social issues facing America. Even if Barrett’s confirmation represents Donald Trump’s last big “win” as president, it’s a victory that could play out for years to come.