Partisan fights over the direction of the federal courts have escalated rapidly in recent years, as Congress has ceased to regularly legislate and both parties have increasingly looked to the courts to enact their visions for the country.
But the confirmation wars appeared to be headed to a new, bitter low on Monday. For the first time in recent memory, not a single member of the minority party, in this case the Democrats, was expected to vote for confirmation. A single Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, had supported Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in 2018.
Democrats oppose Judge Barrett ideologically, but their opposition has little to do with the nominee herself. With more than 50 million votes already cast, Democrats have insisted the winner of the election should be allowed to fill the seat. They have accused Republicans of rank hypocrisy for rushing to fill it despite prior assurances by several senior Republicans that they will not do so if a vacancy opened in an election year and despite Republicans’ insistence in 2016 that voters be given a say in who fills the seat.
Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski, two moderates who have frequently bucked their party, have shared those concerns, warning that to fill the seat now will erode the legitimacy of the court and the Senate.
At 48, Judge Barrett would be the youngest justice on the bench, poised to put an imprint on the law for decades to come. An appeals court judge in Chicago and a Notre Dame law professor, she has been presented as an heir to former Justice Antonin Scalia, a towering figure of the court’s conservative wing for decades. Judge Barrett clerked for Justice Scalia and shares his strict judicial philosophy.
In her confirmation hearings this month, Judge Barrett repeatedly described herself as a true independent with “no agenda.” Neither party in the Senate, though, appears to believe she will be anything but a reliably conservative vote based on her academic writing and appeals court rulings. If that bears out, Judge Barrett would be the ideological opposite of her predecessor, Justice Ginsburg, who was the leader of the court’s now-diminished liberal wing.
Democrats have used that prospect to fire up their liberal base ahead of Election Day. In addition to their alarm over the fate of the Affordable Care Act, they have spent weeks warning that Judge Barrett would chip away at or overturn abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.