Mitch McConnell locks down key swing vote of GOP Rep. Lamar Alexander for Supreme Court fight

Mitch McConnell has locked down the key swing vote of GOP Representative Lamar Alexander for his Supreme Court fight, after two Republicans said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should not be replaced before the election.

The Tennessee Senator threw his support behind McConnell in a statement Sunday, saying ‘no one should be surprised’ by a new appointment in an election year and that voters ‘expect it’.   

Donald Trump on Saturday urged the GOP-run Senate to consider ‘without delay’ his upcoming nomination to fill Ginsburg’s seat, who died Friday after a battle with cancer. 

The move comes just six weeks before the election and has sparked fierce debate, with many Democrats – as well as some Republicans – insisting the seat must not be filled until after the election.   

The crux of the debate centers around the move made by Republicans back in 2016 – and led by McConnell – to block then-President Barack Obama from appointing a new justice to the court nine months before the election. 

Their argument at the time was that the position should not be filled until a new president was elected by the American people – a standard set by the Republicans that the Democrats now argue the party must continue to honor.   

Four GOP senators now need to join the Democrats to stop a Supreme Court nomination going forward. 

Mitch McConnell has locked down the key swing vote of GOP Representative Lamar Alexander (pictured) for his Supreme Court fight

Mitch McConnell has locked down the key swing vote of GOP Representative Lamar Alexander (pictured) for his Supreme Court fight

Mitch McConnell has locked down the key swing vote of GOP Representative Lamar Alexander (pictured) for his Supreme Court fight

‘No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican president’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year,’ Alexander said in a statement. 

‘The Constitution gives senators the power to do it. The voters who elected them expect it.’

Alexander, who is retiring at the end of his current term, went on to say that Democrats would also rush to fill the seat ‘if the shoe were on the other foot’. 

‘Senator McConnell is only doing what Democrat leaders have said they would do if the shoe were on the other foot,’ he said.

‘I have voted to confirm Justices [John] Roberts, [Samuel] Alito, [Sonia] Sotomayor, [Neil] Gorsuch and [Brett] Kavanaugh based upon their intelligence, character and temperament.

‘I will apply the same standard when I consider President Trump’s nomination to replace Justice Ginsburg.’ 

Alexander’s statement comes as a blow to the Democrats after he was viewed as a potential swing vote against efforts by McConnell and Trump to fill Ginsburg’s seat as soon as possible.   

The senator has a history of bipartisanship, having worked closely with Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the past on making it easier for the Senate to confirm presidential nominees. 

He had also been eyed by Democrats as a swing vote during Trump’s impeachment trial, one of a handful of GOP senators that hinted they could vote to hear from witnesses with knowledge of Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.

However Alexander disappointed Democrats in this instance too, deciding against the calling of witnesses and calling the trial a ‘partisan impeachment.’

The Tennessee Senator threw his support behind McConnell (pictured) in a statement Sunday, saying 'no one should be surprised' by a new appointment in an election year and that voters 'expect it'

The Tennessee Senator threw his support behind McConnell (pictured) in a statement Sunday, saying 'no one should be surprised' by a new appointment in an election year and that voters 'expect it'

The Tennessee Senator threw his support behind McConnell (pictured) in a statement Sunday, saying ‘no one should be surprised’ by a new appointment in an election year and that voters ‘expect it’

Two GOP senators – Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins – have already dissented, vowing to derail Trump’s nomination plans until after the November 3 election.  

Murkowski became the second Republican senator Sunday to say the chamber should not take up the president’s nominee before the American people vote for their next president, hours after Trump threw shade at her publicly and after her colleague and frequent collaborator Collins made her own opposition to a quick vote known. 

‘For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election,’ the Alaska senator said.  

‘Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed,’ she continued.

‘I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia.

‘We are now even closer to the 2020 election – less than two months out – and I believe the same standard must apply.’      

Murkowski in her statement was referencing the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, which never got a hearing despite Barack Obama nominating Garland nine months before the 2016 elections.  

Sen. Lisa Murkowski vowed to derail Trump's nomination plans

Sen. Lisa Murkowski vowed to derail Trump's nomination plans

Sen. Susan Collins has also dissented

Sen. Susan Collins has also dissented

Two GOP senators – Lisa Murkowski (left) and Susan Collins (right) – have already dissented, vowing to derail Trump’s nomination plans until after the November 3 election

President Donald Trump took a slap at potential dissenter Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski hours before she released the statement Sunday morning, as he kept up his pressure campaign on his own party and prepared to nominate a Supreme Court Justice in an upended election. 

The president kept his comments brief, penning a simple ‘No thanks!’ as he retweeted a promotion by the Alaska Chamber of Commerce speech by Murkowski for Tuesday.

Murkowski voted against Trump’s last Supreme Court pick – Justice Brett Kavanaugh. More critically for the current scramble underway, she said shortly before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. 

‘I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election,’ she said, Alaska Public Radio reported. 

She referenced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision not to grant a hearing to President Barack Obama’s nominee, Garland, in 2016 nearly nine months before the election.

‘That was too close to an election, and that the people needed to decide,’ Murkowski said. ‘That the closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important,’ she said.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine – with whom Murkowski often votes when diverging from party orthodoxy – came out with her own statement Saturday.

‘In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd,’ Collins, facing a tough re-election race herself, said on Twitter. 

Collins is up for reelection in a close race.   

The two dissenters have left Democrats still shy of the count needed to derail a nomination, but points to the possibility they could prevent it by winning over an additional pair of Republicans. 

With Alexander no longer a possible dissenter, the focus has shifted to Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who votes with conservatives but also voted for an impeachment article against President Trump and has called him out occasionally in public.  

President Trump said Saturday his Supreme Court nominee is most likely to be a woman. On Sunday he tweeted about Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski

President Donald Trump tweeted a dig at GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said before Ginsburg's death that she would not vote for a replacement close to the election

President Donald Trump tweeted a dig at GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said before Ginsburg's death that she would not vote for a replacement close to the election

President Donald Trump tweeted a dig at GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said before Ginsburg’s death that she would not vote for a replacement close to the election

Two other senior Republicans, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rob Portman of Ohio, backed McConnell in public statements Sunday. 

Conservative Trump loyalist Sen. Tom Cotton told ‘Fox News Sunday’ the president should act ‘without delay.’

‘The Senate will exercise our constitutional duty,’ he said. ‘We will move forward without delay.’ 

Trump’s public pressure comes hours after he said at a campaign rally he will act swiftly to make a nomination. 

‘I will be putting forth a nominee this week,’ he said at a campaign rally in North Carolina 

‘It will be a woman,’ Trump added. 

The nomination would fail if Republicans were to lose four members from their 53-vote majority. 

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Sunday pushed the Senate to vote on a nomination before the election, but would say his party has the votes.

‘I don’t know the answer to that. I believe we will’ he said.  

Before he left the White House for the rally, Trump had named two conservative women who he has elevated to federal appeals courts as contenders, a move that would tip the court further to the right.

Trump, who now has a chance to nominate a third justice to a lifetime appointment on the court, named Amy Coney Barrett, 48, of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa, 52, of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit as possible nominees.

He praised Lagoa, in particular, as an ‘extraordinary person’.  

Who is Amy Coney Barrett? 

On Saturday afternoon, Trump named Amy Coney Barrett, 48, of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa, 52, of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit as possible nominees.

Emerging as the favorite is Barrett, 48, a mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs.

 Her involvement in a cult-like Catholic group where members are assigned a ‘handmaiden’ has caused concern in Barret’s nomination to other courts and is set to come under fierce review again if she is Trump’s pick.

The group was the one which helped inspire ‘The Handmaids Tale’, book’s author Margaret Atwood has said. 

Barrett emerges now as a front runner after she was already shortlisted for the nomination in 2018 which eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump called the federal appellate court judge ‘very highly respected’ when questioned about her Saturday. 

Born in New Orleans in 1972, she was the first and only woman to occupy an Indiana seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Married to Jesse M. Barrett, a partner at SouthBank Legal in South Bend and former Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, the couple have five biological and two adopted children. 

Their youngest biological child has Down Syndrome.

Friends say she is a devoted mother – and say with just an hour to go until she was voted into the 7th District Court of Appeals by the U.S. Senate in 2017, Barrett was outside trick-or-treating with her kids. 

Barrett’s strong Christian ideology makes her a favorite of the right but her involvement in a religious group sometimes branded as a ‘cult’ is set to be harshly criticized.    

In 2017, her affiliation to the small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise caused concern while she was a nominee for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 

The New York Times reported that the practices of the group would surprise even other Catholics with members of the group swearing a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another. 

They are also assigned and held accountable to a personal adviser, known until recently as a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women and believe in prophecy, speaking in tongues and divine healings. 

Members are also encouraged to confess personal sins, financial information and other sensitive disclosures to these advisors. 

Advisors are allowed to report these admissions to group leadership if necessary, according to an account of one former member. 

The organization itself says that the term ‘handmaid’ was a reference to Jesus’s mother Mary’s description of herself as a ‘handmaid of the Lord.’

They said they recently stopped using the term due to cultural shifts and now use the name ‘women leaders.’ 

The group deems that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family while ‘the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children,’ the Times reported. 

Unmarried members are placed living with married couples members often look to buy or rent homes near other members. 

Founded in 1971, People of Praise was part of the era’s ‘great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,’ founder Bishop Peter Smith told the Catholic News Agency. 

Beginning with just 29 members, it now has an estimated 2,000. 

According to CNA, some former members of the People of Praise allege that leaders exerted undue influence over family decision-making, or pressured the children of members to commit to the group. 

At least 10 members of Barrett’s family, not including their children, also belong to the group. 

Barrett’s father, Mike Coney, serves on the People of Praise’s powerful 11-member board of governors, described as the group’s ‘highest authority.’ 

Her mother Linda served as a handmaiden.  

The group’s ultra-conservative religious tenets helped spur author Margaret Atwood to publish The Handmaid’s Tale, a story about a religious takeover of the U.S. government, according to a 1986 interview with the writer.

The book has since been made into a hit TV series. 

According to legal experts, loyalty oaths such at the one Barrett would have taken to People of Praise could raise legitimate questions about a judicial nominee’s independence and impartiality. 

‘These groups can become so absorbing that it’s difficult for a person to retain individual judgment,’ said Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of constitutional law and history at the University of Pennsylvania. 

‘I don’t think it’s discriminatory or hostile to religion to want to learn more’ about her relationship with the group.

‘We don’t try to control people,’ said Craig S. Lent. ‘And there’s never any guarantee that the leader is always right. You have to discern and act in the Lord. 

‘If and when members hold political offices, or judicial offices, or administrative offices, we would certainly not tell them how to discharge their responsibilities.’

During her professional career, Barrett spent two decades as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, from which she holds her bachelor’s and law degrees.

She was named ‘Distinguished Professor of the Year’ three separate years, a title decided by students. 

A former clerk for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, she was nominated by Trump to serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 and confirmed in a 55-43 vote by the Senate later that year.

At the time, three Democratic senators supported her nomination: Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who subsequently lost his 2018 reelection bid, Tim Kaine (Va.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), according to the Hill.

She was backed by every GOP senator at the time, but she did not disclose her relationship with People of Praise which led to later criticism of her appointment. 

Barret is well-regarded by the religious right because of this devout faith.

Yet these beliefs are certain to cause problems with her conformation and stand in opposition to the beliefs of Ginsburg, who she would be replacing.

Axios reported in 2019 that Trump told aides he was ‘saving’ Barrett to replace Ginsburg.

Her deep Catholic faith was cited by Democrats as a large disadvantage during her 2017 confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

‘If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am,’ Barrett responded during that hearing, ‘although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.’

Republicans now believe that she performed well in her defense during this hearing, leaving her potentially capable of doing the same if facing the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She is a former member of the Notre Dame’s ‘Faculty for Life’ and in 2015 signed a letter to the Catholic Church affirming the ‘teachings of the Church as truth.’

Among those teachings were the ‘value of human life from conception to natural death’ and marriage-family values ‘founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman’.

She has previously written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct. Liberals have taken these comments as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

Barrett wrote that she agrees ‘with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it’.

Among the other statements that have cause concern for liberal are her declaration that ObamaCare’s birth control mandate is ‘grave violation of religious freedom.’

LGBTQ organizations also voiced their concern about her when she was first named on the shortlist.  

She has also sided with Trump on immigration. 

In a case from June 2020, IndyStar reports that she was the sole voice on a three-judge panel that supported allowing federal enforcement of Trump’s public charge immigration law in Illinois, 

The law would have prevented immigrants from getting legal residency in the United States if they rely on public benefits like food stamps or housing vouchers.  

Advertisement

Who is Barbara Lagoa? 

Barbara Lagoa , 52, was named by Trump as one of his potential nominees to the Supreme Court. 

A Cuban American who parents fled to the U.S., Lagoa was born in Miami in 1967. She grew up in the largely Cuban American city of Hialeah.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, her parents fled Cuba over five decades ago when Fidel Castro’s Communist dictatorship took over. 

During the 2019 news conference in Miami announcing her appointment to the Supreme Court, she told the crowd that her father had to give up his ‘dream of becoming a lawyer’ because of Castro. 

If nominated to the nation’s high court by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, the mother of three daughters would be the second Latino justice to ever serve.

She served on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for less than a year after being appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate on an 80-15 vote

Prior to that she also spent less than a year in her previous position as the first Latina and Cuban American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

Lagoa is considered a protégé of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally.

Her position in crucial swing state Florida could help Trump politically.

Last week, she voted in the majority in a ruling that barred hundreds of thousands of Florida felons who have served their time from voting unless they pay fees and fines owed to the state.

This decision could have a major impact on the presidential race as Florida is often won by a candidate by only razor-thin margins.

‘Florida’s felon re-enfranchisement scheme is constitutional,’ Lagoa wrote in a 20-page concurrence, according to USA Today.

‘It falls to the citizens of the state of Florida and their elected state legislators, not to federal judges, to make any additional changes to it.’

In 2000 Lagoa was one of a dozen mostly pro bono lawyers who represented the Miami family of Elián González, a Cuban citizen who became embroiled in a heated international custody and immigration controversy.

In 2016 while in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, she wrote an opinion reversing the conviction of Adonis Losada, a former Univision comic actor sentenced to 153 years in prison for collecting child porn. 

She ruled that a Miami-Dade judge erred in not allowing Losada to defend himself at trial. 

That same month she became unpopular with free press advocates when she was one of three judges who allowed a Miami judge to close a courtroom to the public for a key hearing in a high-profile murder case. 

They ruled that publicity surrounding the machete murder of a student in Homestead might unfairly sway jurors at a future trial. 

Lagoa is a graduate of Florida International University and Columbia University Law.

She is is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which stresses that judges should ‘say what the law is, not what it should be.’

She is married to lawyer Paul C. Huck Jr., and her father-in-law is United States District Judge Paul Huck. 

Advertisement

WHO’S WHO ON TRUMP’S SUPREME COURT SHORTLIST 

REPUBLICAN SENATORS

Ted Cruz, Texas. 49

Josh Hawley, Missouri. 40

Tom Cotton, Arkansas. 43

JUDGES 

Bridget Bade, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 54

Stuart Kyle Duncan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. 48

James Ho, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 47

Gregory Katsas, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 56

Barbara Lagoa, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. 52

Carlos Muñiz, Supreme Court of Florida. 51

Martha Pacold, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 41

Peter Phipps, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 47

Sarah Pitlyk, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. 43

Allison Jones Rushing, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. 38

Lawrence VanDyke, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 47

CURRENT AND FORMER REPUBLICAN OFFICIALS 

Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General. 34

Paul Clement, partner with Kirkland & Ellis, former solicitor general. 54

Steven Engel, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. 46

Noel Francisco, former U.S. solicitor general. 51

Christopher Landau, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. 56

Kate Todd, deputy White House counsel. 45

Advertisement

link

(Visited 6 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply