Senate vote on Supreme Court nominee would toss a can of gasoline into heated election

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If Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court is approved Thursday by the Judiciary Committee and Monday by the full Senate, it will mark a milestone.

For the first time in more than a century, the majority of the court’s nine members will have been selected by presidents who reached the Oval Office by losing the popular vote.

Also novel is that this nomination is being rammed through in the midst of a presidential election, against 230 years of precedent.

And this particular election, it should be noted, is not your typical one. Tens of millions of Americans have already rushed in mail ballots or stood in line for as many as 11 hours to vote.

Judging Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Under normal circumstances, the Editorial Board would be assessing Barrett according to our usual criteria for nominees to the nation’s highest court. We’d be weighing her impressive legal career, her sterling academic credentials and her appealing life story against some curious and troubling aspects of her work.

The latter include a ruling in which she said the use of the N-word did not constitute workplace discrimination and her refusal during her confirmation hearings to accept climate science as settled.

We’d also be debating whether her conservative views place her within the broad judicial mainstream, and whether she has sufficient respect for legal precedent. 

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sept. 29, 2020.
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sept. 29, 2020.

But we can’t even get to these questions without stating the obvious: This rushed nomination and confirmation process is a slap in the face to the American people. It threatens to undermine the credibility of the Supreme Court and invite retaliation from the Democrats if they win control of the White House and Senate.

While not unconstitutional, it is wildly hypocritical of Republican leaders to hold up a court nominee for most of 2016 — arguing that the people should have their say in the upcoming election — and then deny the people their say this time when their party’s nominee is under consideration less than two weeks before Election Day.

Voter laws, Affordable Care Act

All this is occurring as the Supreme Court has claimed sweeping powers that reach deeply into the lives of Americans. In recent years this court, and ones of slightly different composition, have sided with Republicans on stringent voter ID laws, aggressive voter registration purges and political gerrymandering. 

More ominously, just after the election, the court will return to the Affordable Care Act, a measure that allows millions to buy health insurance. Republicans have tried to kill the law in Congress, and failed, and tried to kill it in the courts, and failed.

Into this already heated and volatile situation, Barrett is being thrown like a jerrycan of gasoline. Already, her hurried White House nomination announcement will go down in history as a COVID-19 superspreader event.

Everything about this hasty confirmation process for a lifetime appointment is misguided. It smacks of a desperate, last-minute power grab by Republicans fearful of the voters’ impending verdict.

USA TODAY’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff and the USA TODAY Network. Most editorials are coupled with an Opposing View, a unique USA TODAY feature.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate vote on Supreme Court nominee would pour gasoline on election

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