WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination Thursday of Amy Coney Barrett to serve as a Supreme Court justice in a 12-0 vote, with Democrats boycotting the day's proceeding.
"The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is the most illegitimate process I have ever witnessed in the Senate. And her potential confirmation will have dire, dire consequences for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and our entire country for generations to come," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned during a press conference following the vote outside the Capitol alongside Democrats on the committee.
Republicans disregarded committee rules, Schumer said, which say that two members of the minority must be present in order to vote anyone out of committee.
Schumer said that Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, "steamrolled over them, just like the Republican majority has steamrolled over principle, fairness, honesty, truth and decency in their rush to confirm a justice."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the committee, criticized Republicans for their hypocrisy after they chose not to consider the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 because they said they wanted voters to choose the president who'd make the nomination. President Barack Obama nominated Garland in March of that year.
Democrats argued Thursday that there's never been a Supreme Court nominee confirmed this close to an election.
As Democrats spoke out against the Barrett nomination, about a dozen people dressed as handmaids stood across from the senators chanting their opposition to the vote and holding signs that said, "Trump, Pence out now!"
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, celebrated the nomination advancing, tweeting that it was a "big day for America!" Vice President Mike Pence thanked Republicans in a tweet for "quickly sending an incredibly qualified, highly principled conservative" nominee for a full Senate vote.
All 10 Democrats on the 22-member committee boycotted the vote and filled their empty seats in the committee room with posters of people who risk losing their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is dismantled. Democrats argued throughout Barrett’s confirmation hearing last week that she would vote with other conservative justices to overturn the 2010 health care law. The high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the law on Nov. 10.
Reacting to Democrats' decision not to participate Thursday, Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "That was their choice. It will be my choice to vote the nominee out of committee."
"We're not going to allow them to take over the committee. They made a choice not to participate," he added.
Graham praised Barrett for doing an "exceptionally good job of handling the questions asked" last week and complimented Democrats for "aggressively" challenging Barrett but not "inappropriately."
"It’s moments like this when you can tell young conservative women that there’s a place at the table for you," Graham said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that they were sitting in a "surreal environment" in which Democrats have boycotted what he called "one of the most important votes" senators will probably take during their tenure.
"I just want to comment on the pictures that are in their chairs like this is some sort of sporting event," said Cornyn, who added that Democrats chose to "continue the theater that was part of the hearing."
Even with Democrats absent, the vote still counted. Two Democratic committee aides said that the senators in their party will hold a press conference with Schumer at 10:15 a.m. on the steps outside the Capitol. Then at 11 a.m., some Democrats are expected to walk to the Supreme Court and join demonstrators protesting Barrett’s nomination.
Barrett, who did not attend the vote Thursday, testified before the committee last week in a marathon confirmation hearing and would not answer many questions.
Democrats have warned that Barrett’s record shows that she would be just as conservative as her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In addition to their warnings about how she could threaten Obamacare, Democratic lawmakers also say they fear her confirmation could lead to a reversal of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protects a woman’s right to abortion.
Democrats have also said that one of the main reasons President Donald Trump and the Republicans are trying to ram Barrett's nomination through the Senate ahead of the election is because Trump wants her installed on the bench in case there’s a dispute over the election results that rises to the Supreme Court, as it did in the 2000 Bush v. Gore election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is planning to hold a final floor vote on Barrett’s nomination Monday and she’s expected to be confirmed. Supreme Court nominees only require 51 votes to be confirmed.