Final Senate vote set for Trump nominee; Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram has the latest on ‘Special Report’
Conservative groups that supported the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to be a Supreme Court justice declared victory Monday night after their coordinated campaign to confirm her succeeded, even as liberal groups who battled just as hard against Barrett vowed to continue the fight with the aim of packing the Supreme Court.
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, outside groups on both sides fired up the well-oiled machinery that had laid in wait for the two years since the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation effort. Tens of millions of dollars were spent on television ads, joint letters were signed by pro- and anti-Barrett coalitions, media campaigns were engaged and protests were organized.
There was even a big pink bus with Barrett’s face on it that went on a tour through the U.S. organized by the conservative Concerned Women for America.
All of this happened in less than 40 days between Ginsburg’s death and when the Senate voted to confirm Barrett on Monday.
“Justice Amy Barrett’s confirmation is a historic achievement for the conservative legal movement, which has persevered for more than three decades in pursuit of a Supreme Court majority that will follow the Constitution,” Carrie Severino, the president of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, said in a tweet. “And tonight we’ve achieved that goal.”
Severino, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, attended the Monday night ceremony for Barrett at the White House as well, an event that was the culmination, in the minds of many on the right, of the rise of the modern conservative legal movement they say began in response to Senate Democrats blocking Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in the 1980s.
Added Mike Davis, a former clerk for Neil Gorsuch from the justice’s time as a circuit judge and the president of the Article III Project, another group that supports Trump judicial nominees: “In 2016, then-candidate Donald J. Trump campaigned on the promise of transforming the federal judiciary with jurists who follow – not disdain – our Constitution. With the appointments of Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh, Justice Barrett, and a near-all-time-record 53 circuit judges (and counting) to the critically important federal courts of appeals, President Trump and Senate Republicans have more than delivered on that promise.”
The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, among a flurry of tweets extolling Barrett as an example of “what a mom can do” and congratulating Barrett, tweeted a video of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smiling wryly.
Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action, a political action group associated with the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, lauded a number of the members of other groups that backed Barrett. Those included Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots, Casey Mattox of America First Policies and the Independent Women’s Forum.
“The conservative movement was at its best through this process,” Anderson said. “You are the best and it has been a pleasure.”
But as conservatives celebrated their success, those on the left were signaling that Barrett’s confirmation was just the start of another fight.
Brian Fallon, a former member of the Hillary Clinton campaign and now the executive director of Demand Justice, the liberal counterpart of Judicial Crisis Network, made his group’s intentions clear immediately.
“Outraged about McConnell and Trump ramming through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation in the middle of an election? So are we,” Demand Justice said as it posted a two-minute-long ad that advocates for court-packing. “Republicans want you to believe this is the end of the fight. But it doesn’t have to be. What comes next? Court reform.”
“Our Supreme Court is broken. Democracy is teetering on the edge,” the ad said. “Reform is the solution. And we need it now.”
A number of Democratic politicians also weighed in in favor of court-packing, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; California House candidate Barbara Lee; Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; and New York House candidate Jamaal Bowman.
Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a liberal group that’s regularly opposed Trump’s judicial nominations, didn’t explicitly endorse court-packing but promised that the fight over the courts is far from over.
“Yes, this is devastating. But we will not despair,” Gupta said. “We will continue to honor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy and we will keep marching for equal justice fighting for our democracy. We won’t stop until we have a Court that respects and recognizes the rights of all of us. We fight on.”
The Leadership Conference played a significant role in the effort against Barrett, organizing a letter signed by 170 organizations in a coalition telling senators to vote against her confirmation.
The potential success of any court-packing effort will be dependent on the results of the Nov. 3 elections. Expanding any federal courts, whether the Supreme Court or lower courts, as Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., seemed to allude to Monday, requires legislation to be signed off on by both Congress and the president.
And even if Democrats control the Senate and the presidency, there could be some Senate Democrats resistant to packing the Supreme Court or adding lower-court seats. Moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who opposes even getting rid of the legislative filibuster, may be hard to convince. Getting rid of the legislative filibuster is effectively a prerequisite for packing the court, as Republicans would almost certainly filibuster a court-packing bill. So Democrats will likely need more than a 51- or 52-seat majority to succeed at packing the Supreme Court.
That’s why Coons, as he advocated efforts “to rebalance our courts” in a Monday conversation with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, emphasized the importance of the upcoming election.
“More than anything else get up and go out and vote,” Coons said. “If you’re in a state where frankly it’s not going to determine the presidential election or our new Senate majority, call your friends, call your classmates, email or text… Reach out to that friend you think might stay home from the polls. Or try and help persuade that family member who you think in your gut might just consider voting for Trump again.”