Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the 115th justice on the Supreme Court at a White House ceremony Monday evening, capping a weeks-long partisan fight over her nomination.
President Trump looked on as Justice Clarence Thomas administered the official constitutional oath to Barrett before a crowd on the South Lawn of the White House, roughly an hour after the GOP-controlled Senate confirmed Trump's third nominee to the high court in a largely party-line vote. They stood on the White House balcony, which was decorated with American flags.
“This is a momentous day for America, for the United States Constitution, and for the fair and impartial rule of law,” Trump, who had just returned from campaigning in Pennsylvania, said in prepared remarks before Thomas administered the oath. “She is one of our nation’s most brilliant legal scholars and she will make an outstanding justice on the highest court in our land.”
Barrett spoke following the oath, thanking Trump and Senate leaders and emphasizing the need for judges to put aside their personal policy views.
“It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences. In fact, it would be a dereliction of 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 duty for her to give into them,” Barrett said.
“The oath that I have 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,” she continued.
A few hundred individuals, including senators and White House officials, were present for the event. Attendees were required to wear masks and sat in folding chairs distanced from one another to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has this month infected several individuals in the White House, including the president and first lady.
The set up stood in contrast with the Rose Garden ceremony honoring Barrett in late September where individuals were close together and interacted without masks — a gathering later deemed a “super-spreader” event by health experts.
Barrett, 48, who previously served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is the third justice nominated by Trump to the high court, following Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Her confirmation cements the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, ensuring that Trump’s mark on there will be long felt even if he loses the election on Nov. 3. Barrett is also the fifth woman to serve on the court in its history.
A former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia and a Notre Dame law professor, Barrett was confirmed in a 52-48 vote Monday evening after a bitter partisan fight in the Senate. Only one GOP senator — Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) — opposed Barrett’s nomination because of its proximity to Election Day.
Trump nominated Barrett to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court in late September, closely following the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her nomination was marred by controversy, as Democrats insisted that the winner of the election be allowed to select Ginsburg’s replacement. They accused Republicans of hypocrisy, pointing to the Senate’s refusal to consider then-President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.
Trump and Republicans pushed forward, however, moving Barrett through confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and scheduling a vote on her nomination Monday evening. Barrett deflected questions during her days-long hearing on how she might rule on abortion, health care and election-related cases.
Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court just eight days before Election Day. Republicans are hoping that her nomination will energize conservatives at a time when public polling shows the GOP control of the White House and Senate under threat. Democrats, meanwhile, hope that the fight over her nomination will help energize the liberal base.
States across the country are currently seeing a surge in early voter turnout compared with previous years, with data currently favoring Democrats.
Barrett will quickly begin work on high-profile cases. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Nov. 10 in the Trump administration’s effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Democrats used their time during her confirmation hearings to describe the Obama administration’s signature health care law as endangered by her nomination.