Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the first steps Friday to advance Amy Coney Barrett for a Supreme Court confirmation vote despite delay tactics from Democrats, including forcing a rare closed-door session that’s typically reserved for national security matters.
Senate Republicans voted in favor of a procedural motion to enter executive session to begin debating Barrett’s nomination — teeing up a final vote on Barrett’s nomination Monday.
“Let’s get on with it. Let’s do our jobs,” said McConnell, while hitting Democrats for efforts to undercut Barrett and previous GOP nominees. “We will give this nominee the vote she deserves no later than Monday.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made clear Democrats would continue to put up a fight. He kicked off Friday’s Senate session asking for a quorum call vote, one of the delay tactics at his disposal.
Republicans are “running the most partisan, the most hypocritical and least legitimate process in the history of Supreme Court nominations,” Schumer said Friday. “And that is why I suggested the absence of a quorum. We’re not going to have business as usual.”
Next Schumer called for a closed session, which meant the press and public are removed from the chamber and senators meet in secret.
“Before we go any further, we should shut off the cameras, close the Senate, and talk face to face about what this might mean for the country,” Schumer said.
Closed session is very uncommon and used for matters deemed to require confidentiality and secrecy, such as national security, according to the Congressional Research Service. The last time senators had a secret session was in 2010 to privately discuss a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
The brief secret session lasted roughly 20 minutes before the cameras were back on and Republicans got the ball rolling again on the nomination process. McConnell filed “cloture” on the Barrett nomination, setting off a countdown for a final vote on Barrett’s confirmation likely for Monday evening.
With Barrett appearing to lock in the 51 votes needed to secure the lifelong appointment to the high court, there’s little Democrats can do to stop the Republicans, who hold power, from approving President Trump’s nomination just days before voters will decide whether to keep Trump and the GOP Senate majority in power.
Democrats say never in the history of the Senate has a Supreme Court nominee been approved this close to an election and they’ve railed against the process, especially since Republicans held up President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in March of 2016 — eight months before the presidential election — arguing then that voters should have a say.
“Might does not make right,” Schumer told Republicans of their decision to move forward.
Republicans have touted the qualifications of Barrett for the Supreme Court and her smooth confirmation hearings as they are determined to get her on the bench before the Nov. 3 election.
“Rarely have we ever had a nominee as extraordinary as the one we have before us right now,” McConnell said. “We’ve had a chance to witness this outstanding nominee. We’ve watched her in committee. She’s demonstrated she has the deep legal expertise, dispassionate judicial temperament and sheer intellectual horsepower that the American people deserve to have on their Supreme Court.”
Friday’s fireworks come after heated and personal remarks Thursday between McConnell and Schumer as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Barrett’s nomination without any Democrats present.
Democrats staged a boycott of the committee vote saying they don’t want to lend any legitimacy to a “sham” process. They fumed at Republicans for bypassing committee rules for two minority senators to be present to conduct business so they could move on the Barrett nomination.
Schumer said McConnell “has defiled the Senate as an institution more than any person in this generation and many generations.”
McConnell said it’s Democrats who started to break judicial norms in the Senate.
“I’m sorry that he feels the need to constantly say things that are false,” McConnell Thursday said.
McConnell made the case that what Republicans are doing now is right. “We will not reward hostage-taking, and we will not be bullied out of doing what is right. We’re going to follow history and precedent and do our jobs.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.