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The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination — with no Democrats present

The committee vote on Barrett’s nomination underscored Republicans’ disregard for the rules.

Portraits of people who rely on the Affordable Care Act are placed in the seats of Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee as they boycott the vote on Amy Coney Barrett.
Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/AFP/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

The unusual nature of Thursday’s committee vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett underscored just how willing Senate Republicans are to continue disregarding established rules. Not a single Democratic senator was present — and Republicans moved forward anyway.

The panel approved Barrett’s nomination 12-10 along party lines, bringing her one step closer to a confirmation vote expected to happen next Monday. But they did so despite a Democratic boycott of the meeting, which meant they didn’t have the required number of minority members that’s usually needed to conduct business.

Per the panel’s rules, two Democratic members need to be present in order to take votes on nominees, but Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) simply disregarded this requirement on Thursday — much like he has with similar norms in the past.

As a result, the 12 Republican members who were at the vote unanimously approved Barrett, whose nomination now heads to the Senate floor for a procedural vote on Sunday. That vote, which would end debate on her nomination, sets Barrett up for a final Senate floor vote on Monday.

Why Democrats boycotted the committee vote, briefly explained

Senate Democrats boycotted the committee vote on Thursday in order to question the legitimacy of Barrett’s confirmation process, which they argue was rushed and contrary to past precedent Republicans had set regarding a nomination during an election year.

“This has been a sham process from the beginning,” Judiciary Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer argued in a statement. “Republicans broke the promises they made and rules they created when they blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination for eight months under President Obama.”

In 2016, Senate Republicans argued that the people should have a voice in the process and refused to consider a nominee until after the presidential election. This year, with just over a month until the election, they moved forward with Barrett’s confirmation.

According to polling by Data For Progress, likely voters are split along party lines regarding whether Barrett should be approved before the election: 19 percent of Democrats think she should be, while 38 percent of independents do, and 82 percent of Republicans feel the same. Meanwhile, 75 percent of likely Democratic voters think this entire process has been rushed, while 38 percent of independents and 30 percent of Republicans agree.

Schumer previously said that Senate Democrats could also boycott the Senate floor vote for Barrett’s nomination and force Republicans to provide the 51-member quorum needed for it to take place. If they end up doing that — Republicans will likely move ahead with the nomination as planned, but Democrats will have, at the very least, sent a message.

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