It is a success for US President Trump – and could shape the US for decades: Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the new constitutional judge. The conservative lawyer divides the country with her views.
Photo series with 17 pictures
Conservative lawyer Amy Coney Barrett moves into the US Supreme Court. The Senate in Washington confirmed the candidate for US President Donald Trump on Monday evening (local time). The decision was made with the votes of 52 Republican members of the Senate, the 47 Democrats and one Republican voted against. That evening the new constitutional judge was sworn in at a ceremony in the White House.
With Barrett’s confirmation, the US president achieved a controversial political success around a week before the election. With Barrett, the Conservatives in the Supreme Court get a dominant majority of six of the nine seats. That could influence the development of US society for decades. Judges are appointed for life, and the Supreme Court often has the final say on controversial cases – including abortion rights, health care and immigration policies. Before the election on November 3, Trump can score points with right-wing voters, for whom conservative constitutional judges are a core concern.
The judges for the Supreme Court are nominated by the President and appointed by the Senate. Barrett replaces the liberal justice icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. Trump really wanted to fill the vacant seat before the presidential election on November 3rd. He also referred explicitly to possible legal proceedings relating to the counting of votes that could end up in the Supreme Court.
Barrett takes oath
Barely an hour after the Senate vote, Barrett took the oath on the Constitution on the South Meadow of the White House. Then she was photographed with Trump on the balcony of the presidential residence. On Tuesday she will become a full member of the Supreme Court with the swearing-in by Presiding Judge John Roberts. Barrett emphasized in a short speech that her political views and private convictions would not play a role in the decisions of the Supreme Court.
It was Barrett’s second event at the White House. Exactly one month before the event for their nomination, several participants tested positive for the corona virus. This also included the President and wife Melania. This time the chairs were placed at a greater distance, but various participants again did not wear masks.
Democrats tried to prevent Barrett’s occupation
This caused outrage among the opposition Democrats: They called on the President in vain not to fill the post so shortly before the election. The opposition party argued that the election winner should have the right to nominate a new constitutional judge.
The Democrats were ultimately powerless in the face of the conservative Senate majority. You are therefore trying to use the controversial personality to mobilize voters before the presidential and congressional elections. They warn that the conservatively dominated Supreme Court could reverse the healthcare reform of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, which gave 20 million people access to health insurance. The right to abortion is also at risk.
Barrett, who is highly respected in conservative and religious circles, had refused to take a position on controversial issues such as the health system, abortion law and gay marriage at the judicial committee hearings two weeks ago. She also refused to promise that she would declare herself biased should Trump go to the Supreme Court in the event of a possible election defeat.
Conservative majority in the Supreme Court – an advantage for Trump in the election
The incumbent has been behind his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in polls for months. Trump, who regularly denounces alleged electoral fraud without any evidence, has already made it clear that he would contest a possible removal by legal means. As in the presidential election in 2000, the outcome of the election could end up in front of the Supreme Court. A clear conservative majority in the Supreme Court gives Trump an advantage.
Before Barrett, Trump had already appointed two conservative lawyers to constitutional judges since taking office: Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Because the Supreme Court often has the last word on major disputes, the political orientation of the court is of crucial importance.
Demands from Democrats to enlarge the court
In view of the dominance of the Conservatives in the Supreme Court, calls have recently been made by the Democrats to enlarge the court in the Senate if Biden wins and the party wins.
Biden initially avoided answering the question of whether he would support such a step for a long time. In the meantime he positioned himself in an interview against an extension, at least as a single measure. “The last thing we need is to turn the Supreme Court into a political football so that whoever has the most votes gets what he wants,” Biden said in a TV interview. “Presidents come and go, the Supreme Court justices stay for generations,” he said.
At the same time, Biden wants to tackle a comprehensive judicial reform if he wins. He would then let a committee of Democrats, Republicans and constitutional law experts advise on recommendations for six months, he said.