Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by a vote of 52-48 to the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday.
The vote reflects the “deep partisan divide” in the United States, according to Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, in an email. He added that every justice since 1859 has had votes from both parties. While all Democrats voted against Barrett’s confirmation, every Republican except Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted to confirm Barrett.
“The degree of polarization on this issue is not surprising,” said campus law professor Bertrall Ross. “It’s as much a response to the Democrats’ sense that the Republicans engaged in manipulative, hypocritical practices with respect to this confirmation process than it is about Amy Coney Barrett and her qualifications.”
Chemerinsky added that he is “deeply distressed by the stunning hypocrisy” of rushing Barrett’s confirmation days before the election after Republicans blocked the confirmation of Merrick Garland for seven months in 2016.
According to Chemerinksy, Barrett is now the fifth “very conservative” justice on the bench. Ross added that a decision for an upcoming case that will address whether limiting the availability of abortion clinics is constitutional could impact women’s reproductive freedom rights under Roe v. Wade.
“Once she’s a justice on the Supreme Court, she will be part of the construction of precedent that will ultimately have … a persuasively binding effect on future cases,” Ross said.
The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act may also be decided by the court.
According to Ross, this case could impact the federal government’s ability to adopt laws to protect the health care of American citizens.
“That would have broad implications for our health care system for both those that are insured and those that will be uninsured if the Affordable Care Act is declared unconstitutional,” Ross said.
Other cases that will be heard next month include protections for LGBTQ+ rights. Barrett will also be on the bench when the Supreme Court addresses upcoming election controversies.
Like other federal judges, Supreme Court justices have a lifetime appointment, meaning the only way to change who serves on the court is if a justice retires or dies. As a result, Ross said options are limited for Democrats who want changes in the Supreme Court.
He added that their only option is to expand the number of seats on the court, as there is no constitutional limit to the number of justices on the Supreme Court. He warned, however, that this could turn into endless retaliation from both parties until the court is no longer perceived as a legitimate institution.
“We are in for a battle that will likely continue past this election,” Ross said. “For a while now, the court has been a huge mobilizing force for Republicans and conservatives, but not so much Democrats. That’s changed a bit in this election.”