The wild ride that has been Donald J. Trump’s first term as president of the United States seems to be all but finished, and yet, win or lose, The Donald has almost three more months until the end of a tumultuous four years. If there is to be a finale, it will likely be the confirmation to the Supreme Court of the president’s third nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The Senate will take the final vote sometime late in the day on Monday, October 26.
The chamber voted Sunday to end debate on Barrett’s confirmation. All but two of the Senate’s 53 Republicans voted to advance the procedure to its final stage. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against, and Collins is all but certain to vote against confirming the judge. Murkowski’s no vote was symbolic of her objection to moving ahead with the confirmation process so close to a general election, even though she told the Senate on October 24 that she would, in fact, vote in favor of sending Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Despite vociferous resistance from Democrats, the advancement of Barrett is hardly in doubt. Republicans appear sure to have 52 votes, as no other GOP senator has signaled his or her objection to the judge’s confirmation even if a couple of them had misgivings about the timing.
What of the Democrats? They have 45 Senate seats but can always count on the votes of the chamber’s two Independents. The final vote is not in doubt, then, which begs the question: will any Democrats cross the aisle and vote to confirm Judge Barrett?
Of the 11 Democrat senators up for re-election this year, only one is almost certain to be unseated. Doug Jones won his Alabama seat in 2017 and can credit his win almost entirely to the fact that his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, faced a barrage of sexual misconduct allegations. Whether Moore was guilty or innocent, his campaign sunk under the weight of lurid stories, and Jones was practically handed the seat on a silver platter.
Former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, who beat out former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to run for Jones’ seat, appears to be enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls in this deep red state, but how does that relate to the Barrett vote? In all likelihood, it means nothing unless Jones suddenly decides that voting to confirm the judge will guarantee him a win over Tuberville. It would not, though, and Jones surely understands that. The greater danger for the Democrat, in fact, would be crossing the aisle and enraging those Alabama Democrats who currently back him, turning a very likely defeat into an absolute certainty.
The same scenario applies to one or two other Democrat senators who, while not staring election defeat in the face, cannot be certain that their seats are safe. Such is the polarization around Supreme Court nominees that none can afford to vote tactically, hoping to curry favor with Republican voters, when doing so would enrage their Democrat constituents and campaign donors.
Is it possible that any Democrat will put conscience above party and vote to send Barrett to the nation’s highest court? It is 2020, so maybe anything is possible. How likely is it? Perhaps about as likely as Hunter Biden being arrested before November 3. The smart money is on a day of hysterics and theatrics from the Loyal Opposition before a 52-48 vote confirms Mr. Trump’s newest associate justice.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.