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Senate To Vote On Amy Coney Barrett's Confirmation For Supreme Court


Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate voted this evening, with Democrats reiterating their objections to the move, but Republicans ultimately had the votes they needed. To tell us more, we're joined by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Hi, Claudia.


SHAPIRO: How did the vote break down tonight?

GRISALES: It was 52-48, almost entirely along party lines. Maine GOP Senator Susan Collins, who said the vote on the vacancy shouldn't happen this close to the presidential election, joined Democrats to oppose the nomination. Still, Republicans had a comfortable margin. They needed at least 50, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie. But his vote wasn't needed. And although he indicated he wanted to be here, he didn't preside after several of his aides tested positive for COVID-19, and he was urged to stay away by Democrats. And while it's traditional for all members to vote from their seats in these cases, you could only see Republicans remain in the chamber. Democrats only entered momentarily to vote because of the pandemic and also a sign of how partisan this process was.

SHAPIRO: And after the Senate voted, Barrett appeared at the White House. Tell us what happened there tonight.

GRISALES: Right. Justice Clarence Thomas administered a constitutional oath to Judge Barrett tonight. That was one of two that the justices are required to take. This took place outdoors. It was a much more socially distanced and masked crowd than previous events. About a dozen Senate Republicans were in attendance. But it's not immediately clear when and where a separate judicial oath for Barrett is expected to take place.

SHAPIRO: This has been such a partisan process, as you mentioned. And before the vote tonight, both parties took one final opportunity to get in their say. Tell us what we heard from them.

GRISALES: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke for about 20 minutes on the floor tonight. He stressed that there has been a lot at stake here, lamenting the partisanship. Let's take a listen.


MITCH MCCONNELL: Elections come and go. Political power is never permanent, but the consequences could be cataclysmic if our colleagues across the aisle let partisan passions boil over and scorch the ground rules of our government.

GRISALES: He said Republicans are exercising the power that was given to them by the American people. And in a different era, Barrett may have won bipartisan support. And moments before the vote, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made his final objection. Let's take a listen.


CHUCK SCHUMER: Monday, October 26, 2020 - it will go down as one of the darkest days in the 231-year history of the United States Senate.

GRISALES: He reiterated Democrats' argument that Republicans rammed this nomination through with early voting already underway. Republicans have refused this practice in the past. But Democrats didn't have many tools at their disposal to stop this, so they used this opportunity to highlight concerns about health care, reproductive and voting rights. And that includes the Affordable Care Act, which will be before the Supreme Court just one week after the election.

SHAPIRO: And what does Barrett's confirmation mean for the Supreme Court?

GRISALES: Barrett still needs to be administered the judicial oath. As we mentioned, tonight's was the constitutional oath. And we should note - a White House event announcing her nomination was just one month ago today, and that turned out to be a superspreader event. So again, today's event was much smaller. But still, Republicans are using this to highlight this accomplishment of approving her so quickly. It's one of the fastest confirmations in history and an opportunity to shift the court with Barrett to a 6-3 conservative majority. And they're doing this despite no cooperation from Democrats and a pandemic.

SHAPIRO: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales, thanks a lot.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.