TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the 115th justice on the Supreme Court late Monday, Oct. 26.
Voting along party lines, the Senate confirmed her by a 52-48 vote. The only Republican to vote with Democrats was Sen. Susan Collins, who said it was too close to Election Day to consider a nominee.
“The vote tonight was entirely expected,” said Dr. Chad Westerland, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy. “Susan Collins not voting with the majority is a little bit of a surprise, but explainable given the very tight race she is in and that she has already struggled in maintaining the Republican base in Maine."
Also as expected was a less than subtle response.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “momentous day” while Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren called it a “dark” one.
However, the confirmation goes beyond politicians, with people from all walks of life keeping a close watch.
“We have had more conversations in the last month about the federal court structure than we have in the last 70 years,” Westerland said. “It does sort of set the tone of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.”
The vote, cementing a conservative majority, could impact everyday life for a generation. The Republican Party has been outspoken about selecting judges willing to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Roe v. Wade.
“There are [also] three pending election cases as of today before the Supreme Court that, potentially, Justice Amy Coney Barret could decide,” Westerland said.
He says actions often have reactions.
“Things on the table like term limits for Supreme Court justices - or federal judges as a whole - or, obviously, the number of justices on Supreme Court,” said Westerland. “The number of Supreme Court justices is not a constitutional requirement, that is up to Congress to decide. We have had as many as 10, we have had as few as six.”
While Westerland doesn’t believe Democrats will start creating new seats within the next few months, he does expect Justice Coney Barrett will get to work as early as next week.
“The only change now is impeachment for a Supreme Court justice and that is not very likely,” he said. “A Supreme Court justice has never been removed from office. That’s why the discussion is about adding new justices, not removing existing justices."