The U.S. senators from the Mountain State on Monday were at odds on their votes for or against sending U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito likewise had different perspectives in terms of the significance of Barrett’s confirmation to the court eight days before voting ends in the 2020 general election.
Manchin and Capito hosted news conferences with reporters Monday afternoon before the Senate confirmed Barrett’s nomination to the court.
Manchin, a Democrat, voted against Barrett, saying he didn’t want to set a precedent of filling Supreme Court vacancies so close to an election.
“My main objection right now is the timeliness of doing it,” Manchin said. “I’m voting against a precedent.”
Capito, a Republican, said she voted on Barrett’s merit, adding that the new justice is an “extraordinary individual.”
“I think she’s a tremendous role model on the whole who would show our daughters and granddaughters they can go anywhere they want to go and do anything they want to do,” Capito said.
Manchin said the United States similarly had Supreme Court vacancies during election cycles during the 1800s, once during the Civil War. The Senate during those periods, along with Presidents John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and Abraham Lincoln, set the precedent of not filling the vacancies so close to the election, he said.
Republicans wanted to confirm Barrett to strengthen the conservative majority of the court, regardless of historical precedent, Manchin said.
“They want to make absolutely sure that, if the election is thrown into the courts, that they are going to be able to have the solid majority they need,” Manchin said. “They’re afraid that one of the other justices ... may not be in sync with the other justices, and there could be a 4-4 tie.”
Capito said Democrats were using scare tactics in fighting Barrett’s nomination to the court by citing the upcoming court case involving the Affordable Care Act and other cases the court is likely to hear with Barrett on the bench.
“That’s a political scare tactic that I really think does a disservice to the process,” Capito said.
Manchin said that, on her merits, Barrett is a “bright” judge, appointed to the bench for the first time in 2017, who is beloved by her colleagues and former students at Notre Dame Law School. On that point, Manchin said selecting a Supreme Court justice is about appointing the most qualified person to the bench.
“Is she the most qualified? No,” said Manchin, who in 2017 voted in favor of appointing Barrett to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from federal courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Before Barrett’s confirmation, five of the eight sitting justices were considered conservative, two of them having been nominated by President Donald Trump and approved by the GOP-majority Senate since 2017.
Barrett is the third justice Trump has appointed to the 9-member Supreme Court.