The U.S. Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday in a 52 – 48 vote, making her the third Supreme Court Justice to be appointed by President Donald Trump.
Nathan Schlueter, professor of philosophy and religion and Hillsdale’s pre-law advisor, said he was pleased with the civility of Barrett’s confirmation process.
“This process was the healthiest political event we have had in recent memory,” Schlueter said. “Deprived of material for salacious personal accusations or identity politics grandstanding, the process allowed for public debate on serious, substantive issues. Justice Barrett is a refreshing reminder why good character matters for politics.”
Senior politics major Victoria Marshall, who is currently interning in Washington, D.C. as a part of the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, said she was surprised by how smoothly the confirmation process went.
Marshall visited the Supreme Court on the night that the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and noted that there were already protesters vehemently opposing any attempt to fill the open seat. Despite the controversy over the replacement of Ginsburg, Barrett’s confirmation was relatively uneventful, she said.
“I am actually shocked that nothing big happened, and I’m also shocked at how easy and how fast it was,” Marshall said. “The atmosphere here in D.C. is very eerie. It definitely feels like the calm before the storm. I can only attribute no scandals to the fact that Barrett didn’t have any kind of liabilities.”
Professor of Politics Mickey Craig pointed to the fallout after Senate Democrats’ poor treatment of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh two years ago as another possible explanation for the civility of the confirmation.
“I think the reason Barrett was not attacked was in part because Democrats saw how what they did to Kavanaugh cost them winning the Senate in 2018,” Craig said. “Republicans, despite losing the House, actually picked up two seats in the Senate, and it was from Democrats who voted against Kavanaugh. At this point in the election, Democrats don’t want to offend women who look at Barrett and think what an amazing person she is.”
While Democrats may have shown restraint throughout Barrett’s confirmation, Matthew Spalding, dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government in Washington, D.C., said he suspects they will retaliate and try to regain control of the federal judiciary if they can get control of the Senate and the presidency.
“I think the response on the left will be to try to circumvent Trump’s appointments,” Spalding said. “I think there will be an attempt to restructure the courts in some fundamental way that perhaps packs or rearranges the Supreme Court.”
Spalding also noted that Barrett’s confirmation, coming only eight days before the 2020 presidential election, will likely drive more voters to the polls.
“It reminded people how important judicial appointments are,” Spalding said. “Recall that one of the chief things that probably got President Trump elected were his promises on Supreme Court justices, which he followed through on not once or twice, but three times.”
Immediately following the confirmation vote, Barrett was sworn in by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Barrett also gave a short speech in which she reiterated her views on the role of judging and praised all the senators that participated in the confirmation process.
“It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences,” Barrett said. “In fact, it would be a dereliction of her duty for her to put policy goals aside. By contrast, it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of her duty to give into them.”