Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski, said Saturday that she will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, giving crucial support to President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the conservative judge faces a final vote expected Monday.
The Republican had been a rare holdout on Barrett, decrying that her nomination had proceeded so close to a presidential election. Even though Barrett appears to have support for confirmation from Senate Republicans who hold the majority in the chamber, Murkowski’s vote now gives Trump’s nominee additional backing. Only one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, is now expected to vote against the conservative judge.
Senators are set Sunday to push ahead, despite Democratic objections that the winner of the White House on Nov. 3 should make the choice to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Murkowski announced her support for Barrett in a speech during Saturday’s session.
“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility,” she said.
She said that while she will vote to confirm Barrett, she would still oppose procedural steps to move Barrett’s nomination forward.
The fast-track confirmation process is like none other in U.S. history so close to a presidential election, and Democrats mounted procedural hurdles to slow it down. But the minority party has no realistic chance of stopping Barrett’s confirmation, which is set to lock a 6-3 conservative court majority for years to come.
Just hours before Ginsburg’s death, Murkowski told a public radio reporter that she would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice before the 2020 election. Murkowski referenced those remarks during her floor speech on Saturday, noting that in 2016, after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, she said the Senate should not “take up a nominee to fill that seat due to the impending presidential election.”
“I didn’t know that (Justice Ginsburg) had passed when I reaffirmed my comments from earlier, but that knowledge would not have changed my mind.” Murkowski said Saturday. “I remain in the same place today.”
The senator said she does not believe moving forward with a nominee when partisan tensions are high “will help our country become a better version of itself.”
“But I’ve lost that procedural fight,” Murkowski continued.
People opposed to Barrett’s nomination have expressed concern about her views on abortion rights and whether she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision affirming that the constitutional right to privacy includes a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Murkowski, who has historically supported access to abortion rights and women’s reproductive health, said Saturday that she had engaged with Barrett for a “lengthy one-on-one” regarding several issues, including the weight the judge places on long-standing decisions like Roe vs. Wade.
“I do not believe Judge Barrett will take her seat on the bench with a predetermined agenda,” she said.
Alaska’s other Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, said earlier this week that he would support Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, calling her an “exceptional jurist.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Saturday noted the political rancor over Barrett’s nomination but defended his handling of the process.
“Our recent debates have been heated, but curiously talk of Judge Barrett’s actual credentials or qualifications are hardly featured,” McConnell said. He called her one of the most “impressive” nominees for public office “in a generation.”
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York warned Republicans the only way to remove the “stain” of their action would be to “withdraw the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett until after the election.”
Barrett, 48, presented herself in public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a neutral arbiter of cases on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and presidential power — issues soon confronting the court. At one point she suggested, “It’s not the law of Amy.”
But Barrett’s past writings against abortion and a ruling on the Obama-era health care law show a deeply conservative thinker.
Trump said this week he is hopeful the Supreme Court will undo the health law when the justices take up a challenge Nov. 10.
At the start of Trump’s presidency, McConnell engineered a Senate rules change to allow confirmation by a majority of the 100 senators, rather than the 60-vote threshold traditionally needed to advance high court nominees over objections. With a 53-47 GOP majority, Barrett’s confirmation is almost certain.
Daily News reporter Morgan Krakow contributed. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.