What to Know About the Supreme Court Nomination and Confirmation Process

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Precious Kim, Staff Writer

On September 26, 2020, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court after the passing of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a week earlier. A swift confirmation process began, and on October 26, 2020, Barrett took the constitutional oath, the first of two oaths to take before officially joining the bench on the Supreme Court.

 

So what is the confirmation process, and how does it work?

 

According to the official website of the Supreme Court of the United States, the President first nominates someone for a vacancy on the Court. Later, the Senate votes to confirm the nominee, which requires a simple majority. Of course, the process to hold a vote is more complicated and includes a public hearing,  a committee vote, and a Senate floor vote, and usually, takes around two months to complete. However, a combination of the upcoming presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an expedited process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

 

Following President Trump’s nomination of Barrett, the nomination was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. Barrett had already been vetted in 2018 as a finalist in 2018 to fill Anthony Kennedy’s seat, which meant the White House could move quickly to nominate her without having to worry about scandals that could hold up the process. Then, the Committee held a hearing after collecting and receiving all necessary records from the FBI and other sources about Barrett. 

 

During the hearings, witnesses who both support and oppose the nomination presented their views, and senators were able to question Barrett on her qualifications, judgment, and philosophy. When the hearing concluded, the Judiciary Committee reported the nomination with their recommendation, sending a report to the full Senate. What followed was 30 consecutive hours of the floor debate, which uncommonly ran overnight Sunday into Monday, and ended with a vote on the nomination. For the nominee to be confirmed, the senators must vote to result in a simple majority. If there is a tie, the Vice President will cast the deciding vote. 

 

In Amy Coney Barrett’s case, the Senate voted 52 to 48 in favor of her confirmation. Her confirmation process took less than 40 days to finalize, and Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath to Judge Barrett at the White House on Monday, October 26, 2020. Barrett must still take the judicial oath, which has been scheduled for October 27, 2020, at the Supreme Court. 

 

This confirmation solidifies the high court’s conservative majority, and comes at a pivotal time for American politics, as Election Day approaches in the next week.

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