In what was already a contentious nomination process due to the approaching election, the Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court without a single vote outside of the Republican caucus. With her confirmation securing a conservative majority on the court and putting access to affordable healthcare and basic measures for equality at risk, many Virginians had an extremely negative reaction to her confirmation.
After Senate Republicans refused to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee after Justice Scalia passed away almost a year before the 2016, Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell took a completely different tone this year despite the rapidly approaching 2020 election. With millions of voters having already cast their vote in the race for president by the time the vote on Barrett’s confirmation was held, Democratic senators were quick to highlight what they called a hypocritical stance designed to benefit the GOP.
Among those calling out his Republican colleagues was Virginia’s Sen. Tim Kaine.
“I voted not to confirm Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court,” Sen. Kaine said in a statement. “After declaring the Senate shouldn’t confirm a new justice during an election year in 2016, Senate Republicans have abandoned their own rule so they can ram through their own nominee in hopes she will strike down the Affordable Care Act. I strain to recall ever before witnessing such disdain for precedent, such disrespect for the legacy of an American giant, such disregard for the will of the voters.”
Virginia’s other Democratic senator also joined Kaine in voting no. This isn’t terribly surprising considering the fierce opposition to rushing the nomination through, but it’s worth noting Sen. Mark Warner’s traditionally viewed one of the more moderate senators. There was therefore a slight possibility he’d vote in favor of Barrett’s nomination. While explaining his vote on the senate floor, however, he directly went after Mitch McConnell for his decision to rush Barrett’s nomination through before the election.
“We should not be considering a Supreme Court nomination before Inauguration Day, yet the majority leader is continuing forward with votes on Judge Barrett’s nomination,” Sen. Warner said on the senate floor. “Judge Barrett’s record is clear and so is my vote. I’m voting no. There’s too much at stake.”
While it’s the US Senate that votes on Supreme Court nominees, several state level leaders in Virginia have also weighed in. One of those was Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy. She’s running for governor in next year’s state level elections and highlighted how she believed Barrett was a “threat” to “the future of reproductive freedom” and affordable healthcare.
“Senate Republicans showed that they are more concerned with advancing their extreme agenda than listening to the will of the people,” Carroll Foy said in a statement released by her campaign. “The truth is Amy Coney Barrett has the potential to turn us back to a dark past where Virginians struggled to afford healthcare and got kicked off their insurance for having a pre-existing condition. The threat she poses to the future of reproductive freedom is alarming, especially in Virginia, which has been ground zero for some of the harshest attacks on access to reproductive healthcare.”
The gubernatorial candidate’s statement continued by highlighting some of the efforts she’d take as governor to “be a brick wall” against the inevitable “attacks on reproductive freedom” that will result from Barrett now having a seat on the Supreme Court.
In order for her to “be a brick wall” against the potential negative consequences of Amy Coney Barrett being on the Supreme Court, Del. Carroll Foy obviously needs to win her election next year. And that got to the heart of what was at the message Del. Danica Roem put out after the new justice was confirmed.
“Every draft of what I want to write about the SCOTUS involves anger at the lies of the Senate majority and a laundry list of discriminatory decisions to come in the near-term,” Danica tweeted. “But being pissed on Twitter doesn’t help. Sweeping every office we can everywhere we can Nov. 3 does.”
Danica’s response to the confirmation reminded a lot of people of something President Obama used to say on the campaign trail. When people would boo a policy or person they didn’t care for during his campaign rallies, Obama would quickly respond with “don’t boo; vote.” In comparison, Danica’s comments almost seemed to say “don’t tweet; vote.”
Del. Roem’s comments were especially noteworthy because many members of the general public seemingly wanted to be “pissed on twitter.” Scrolling through some of the social media accounts of prominent Virginians, it was very noticeable that people were frustrated and wanted to vent. One Prince William County resident claimed “this makes me sick” while posting an article about Barrett to Facebook. And a Fairfax County resident posted a meme that raised questions about whether the new justice was as qualified as Merrick Garland (the person President Obama appointed to the court, but Republicans refused to even grant a hearing).
With that being said, there were folks who joined Danica in encouraging people to be a little more strategic in their response to the confirmation. One liberal activist from Fairfax County, for instance, posted about how he believed this should help emphasize the importance of the Supreme Court.
“I don’t have any problem with Lisa Murkowski voting to confirm ACB,” he wrote on Facebook after the moderate Republican said she’d be voting yay. “As much as I can’t stand her judicial philosophy, she’s a smart woman and she’s qualified to serve on the Court. What this experience should teach us is that we need to be much-more strategic about everything the Democratic Party does as relates to SCOTUS. The Republicans seem to ‘get it’ much more than we do.”
Now that Amy Coney Barrett has been sworn in as the newest justice, the discussion has also actively turned to whether or not Democrats will try to change the number of justices on the court. Realistically, they can only even remotely consider this if they win the White House and the majority in both chambers of Congress in next week’s election. But with the possibility being discussed, one activist reminded her followers that it’s up to Congress to set the number of Supreme Court justices.
“The Constitution does not specify the number of seats on the Supreme Court,” Charlotte Clymer wrote. “This power was left to Congress, which set the Supreme Court’s size at one chief justice and five associates in the Judiciary Act of 1789. It was then legally changed seven times.”
As the results of the upcoming election will directly impact whether or not that’s even a relevant discussion, only time will tell whether Virginians will get behind any potential move to potentially expand the court. In the meantime, it appears as Democrats are combining quick expressions of frustration with reminders of how they view upcoming elections as a prime opportunity to help influence the role Barrett’s opinions might have on Virginia.