The Republican-led Senate voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday, solidifying the new conservative majority on the court.
Barrett was confirmed by a 52–48 Senate vote, with Democrats unanimously opposing the confirmation. She is the first Supreme Court nominee in modern history to receive zero votes from the opposition party.
Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican senator to vote “no.”
At 48 years old, Barrett is also the youngest woman to be sworn in to the Supreme Court, making it possible for her to serve upwards of three decades on the court.
This, along with her staunch conservative views and judicial philosophy, has raised concerns for Democrats, who are worried about the fate of reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), voting rights, and LGBTQ+ rights in the US.
Barrett’s presence on the court cements a 6–3 conservative majority, making it the most conservative Supreme Court since the Lochner era, which lasted from 1897 to 1937. During this time, the Supreme Court acted as judicial activists, attacking organized labor and striking down regulatory laws to protect businesses and the free market at the expense of the workers.
“The issues are different now, but if you look at where the justices are on the political spectrum, justices like Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are as far to the right for their society as any justices in American history have ever been,” Erwin Chemerinsky, a professor at Berkeley Law in California, told NBC News.
“There will be five votes to overrule Roe v. Wade. There may be five votes to strike down the Affordable Care Act. There will be at least five votes to allow employers and businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. I think there are going to be five votes to limit the ability of Congress to use the commerce power to adopt social legislation.”
This new conservative majority bench could transform America’s laws for more than a generation. And with the Supreme Court set to hear cases on the constitutionality of the ACA and the legality of federally-funded adoption agencies discriminating against LGBTQ+ couples next month, Democrats fear that the worst is yet to come.
Even without Barrett, the Supreme Court has shifted to the right. Just this past week, the court voted to suppress votes and restrict access to voting in Georgia and Wisconsin, siding with Republican interests in both states.
In a 5–3 ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against extending Wisconsin’s mail-in ballot deadline to up to six days after Election Day in light of the pandemic. While Justice Elena Kagan dissented, claiming that the decision would disenfranchise voters, Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that counting legitimate ballots after November 3 would somehow undermine or flip the election.
“States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election,” Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion.
Kagan, however, used her dissenting opinion to argue against this reasoning, writing, “There are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more ‘suspicio[us]’ or ‘improp[er]’ than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on Election Night.”
With Barrett on the court now, Kagan might be forced to write more dissenting opinions than ever before.