Judge Amy Coney Barrett (ACB) was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Monday by a vote of 52 – 48 in the Senate; not a single Democrat senator voted in her favor, making this the first time in 151 years that a Supreme Court Justice did not receive a single vote from the minority party, according to the LA Times. The only Republican senator to vote along with the Democrats against the appointment of Barrett was Susan Collins, her reasoning being that it’s too close to election day. Her rationale is valid; with the official date for the 2020 Presidential Election just 8 days away, the Senate’s confirmation of Barret to the Supreme Court is aggressively pushing the GOP agenda and unjustly so. The confirmation of ACB to the Supreme Court completely contradicts what happened months before the 2016 Presidential Election. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, and then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the court to replace him. However, Senator Mitch McConnell denied this nomination on the grounds that it was too close to the election, and the American people deserve a voice in the appointment of the next Supreme Court Justice. Yet, Obama’s 2016 nomination occurred nearly nine months before the 2016 Presidential Election. Somehow, it’s cutting it too close when a president makes a Supreme Court nomination nine months before an election, yet a mere eight days is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of the Senate, but only if it benefits the GOP.
Mitch McConnell was not the only senator in 2016 to voice disdain against Obama’s appointment of Garland to the Supreme Court. Senator Lindsey Graham also opposed the nomination on the grounds that the nomination occurred too close to election day. Graham went so far as to say in a Senate hearing: “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’” Graham makes it clear that if a seat on the Supreme Court were to open up at any time between January 2020 and January 2021, the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election should get to decide who fills that seat. He even went so far as to emphasize his position on this issue in October 2018, stating that “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term and the primary process has started, we’ll wait till the next election.” President Trump’s nomination and the senate’s confirmation of Justice ACB completely disregards Graham’s 2016 statement, and Graham defended ACB’s appointment, even though his initial position speaks otherwise.
In response to the public backlash against his contradictory actions, Graham claims that the nomination of ACB is “a different situation,” and that the main issue behind Obama’s 2016 nomination was that “[You] had the president of one party nominating, and you had the Senate in the hands of the other party. A situation where you’ve got them both would be different.” However, this statement by Graham brings light to just how much control Republicans have over our government at this time. The Executive Office and the Senate are both primarily controlled by members of the GOP, and ACB’s confirmation secures the conservative-appointed supermajority of the Supreme Court, with six justices having been appointed by Republican presidents and only three by Democratic presidents.
The United States Government is now largely controlled by Republicans, even though America’s population is not largely made up of Republicans. In fact, a June 2020 study found that only 29% of registered American voters identified as Republican and 33% Democrat (an additional 34% identify as Independent). While the Executive Office changes leadership every four to eight years, and a Senator holds a six-year term, an appointment to the Supreme Court lasts a lifetime, which is far too long for an individual to hold significant power over the fate of our country and its people. Although the Executive Office has been held by a Democrat for eight of the past twelve years, only two Supreme Court Justices have been appointed by Democrats in that time span. On the other hand, Trump has appointed three justices to the Supreme Court in less than four years. Even though Trump may be voted out of office in the coming days, he will have made an impact upon the highest court in our country that will last for decades to come. The amount of power given to Trump through the ability to nominate and appoint justices to the Supreme Court is far too much for one man alone to hold.
The fact that the GOP shows a complete lack of regard for the opinions and interests of the majority of the American people, combined with their unwillingness to act with respect to precedents and promises made prior, is extremely worrisome for our country. The blatant hypocritical and dictatorial actions the Republican Party has taken recently shows that our country is not operating on a truly democratic system, and too much power currently rests in the hands of one man and one political party.