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U.S. Senate swiftly confirms Judge Barrett to Supreme Court amid bitter partisan division

(Xinhua)    15:58, October 27, 2020

A divided U.S. Senate voted mostly along party line Monday to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's nominee, to the Supreme Court, succeeding late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

With 52 votes in favor and 48 against, the Republican-controlled Senate's confirmation of the 48-year-old conservative judge to the high court drew opposition from all of the Democratic members in the chamber.

Susan Collins, Republican senator from Maine who faces a tough reelection battle, was the only GOP senator who crossed the political aisle to side with the Democrats.

It's unprecedented in modern U.S. history for a Supreme Court justice to be confirmed in the Senate without gaining a single vote of support from the minority party, something unseen for 151 years.

The confirmation made Barrett, a devout Catholic and longtime law professor at Notre Dame University, the 115th justice of the Supreme Court and the fifth woman ever to sit on the bench.

Shortly after the Senate vote, Justice Clarence Thomas administered Barrett's Constitutional oath during a nighttime ceremony at the White House South Lawn presided over by Trump.

"The oath that I've solemnly taken tonight, means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences," said Barrett after her swearing-in.

Barrett's installation on the Supreme Court to serve what will potentially be a lifelong tenure will further consolidate the conservative majority on the bench, giving Republican appointees a 6-3 edge over those picked by Democratic presidents.

Chief Justice John Roberts, also a Republican appointee, will administer the judicial oath of Barrett at the Supreme Court Tuesday, according to a news release from the Supreme Court, which said the newly approved justice will then "be able to begin to participate in the work of the Court."

Since Trump announced the nomination in late September, Democrats have consistently opposed the Senate move to confirm Judge Barrett, citing the proximity to Election Day, which is just eight days out now. They have insisted that the winner of the election be allowed to decide who fills the vacant seat.

Reacting to the outcome, which was all but assured before the vote took place, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said on Twitter that "Republicans denied the will of the American people by confirming a Supreme Court justice through an illegitimate process."

The California Democrat, in a prior tweet, slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans for what she said was their "despicable" choice to "jam through a Supreme Court nominee -- when more than 62 million people have already voted" in the election, adding that "they must be held accountable."

Her tweet has been retweeted by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who announced last Thursday that he would create a bipartisan commission to consider reforms to the Supreme Court and federal judiciary if Republicans moved to confirm Barrett.

The former vice president has been under pressure to clarify his stance on Democratic progressives' proposal to expand the nine-member high court, a partisan plan he as a moderate is wary of.

Harris also assailed Republicans for "their effort to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and strip health care from millions with pre-existing conditions" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats, citing Barrett's past critiques of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, are concerned that her elevation will lead to the termination of the Obama-era health care law, whose constitutionality the high court is scheduled to hear on just one week after the election.

Biden in a statement called the confirmation "rushed and unprecedented," one that made clear Trump's effort "to tear down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety."

"If you want to protect your health care, if you want your voice to be heard in Washington, if you want to say no, this abuse of power doesn't represent you -- then turn out and vote," the former vice president said.

Despite the boycott from Democrats, Senate Republicans pushed for a swift confirmation process for Barrett, arguing, on the one hand, for her eligibility for the job, and on the other hand, that their move is justified because now the same party controls the White House and Senate.

Barrett dodged questions asking about her decisions on specific legal issues during her Senate confirmation hearings earlier this month as she was grilled by Democrats over issues ranging from Obamacare to women's abortion rights.

"No hints, no previews, no forecasts," she said during the sessions.

When pressed by Democratic senators to answer whether she would recuse herself from hearing cases related to the upcoming election, Barrett said neither the president nor his staff ever expressed willingness to dictate her possible rulings, including those concerning the election.

When it comes to her legal decisions, she added, conferring with and pledging to the White House "would be a gross violation of judicial independence."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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