Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett (right) meets with Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., on Oct. 21, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Greg Nash/AP)
Sen. Martha McSally met privately Wednesday with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and later said she would enthusiastically vote to confirm her.
Trump and GOP senators are moving to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday with a vote that is expected to deliver a 6-3 conservative majority on the court by Election Day.
Democrats have wanted to hold off on filling the high court vacancy left by the Sept. 18 death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until after voters decide the presidential race on Nov. 3, but Republicans narrowly control the Senate and are moving quickly.
On Wednesday, after meeting with the judge, McSally, who is on Arizona’s ballot this year and is considered an endangered senator, said she was impressed with Barrett.
“I just met with Judge Barrett and I am so inspired by her,” McSally said during a news conference after her meeting. “This truly is her calling and she is a gift to our country when she is confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court.”
She made the remarks as she joined Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and others to oppose any efforts to expand the Supreme Court, as some Democrats have called for.
“We cannot allow one extreme element to fundamentally destroy and transform our institutions like this,” McSally said.
McSally later told The Arizona Republic that Barrett is “in person, exactly the kind of brilliant, thoughtful, gracious, humble, unflappable woman” Americans saw during her recent confirmation hearings. The one-on-one was the first time McSally and Barrett had met.
McSally said she spoke with Barrett about how she came to her judicial philosophy, “which I strongly agree with and support, that she’s on the bench not to interpret the Constitution and the laws the way she wants them interpreted … but the way they were written.”
McSally said she told Barrett she was “a gift to America — I told her that, I actually got a little choked up when I said that to her, but she really is a gift to our country for this moment in time. I’m really proud to support her.”
McSally initially expressed her support for Barrett shortly after Trump announced her as his Supreme Court pick in late September.
Barrett’s nomination to the court gives McSally and other Republicans the opportunity to remind Republican voters of the dozens of conservative judges they have confirmed to the federal bench during Trump’s first term.
McSally said she would vote to confirm Barrett on Tuesday in an opinion piece for The Arizona Republic that centered on the judge’s personal biography and professional qualifications.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Arizona Democrat who has voted for some of Trump’s more controversial judicial and Cabinet nominees, is scheduled to speak with Barrett later this week.
Sinema has not indicated how she will vote on Barrett’s nomination. During her time in the Senate, she has emphasized the chamber’s “advice and consent” responsibility when examining the executive branch’s nominees.
She has previously told The Arizona Republic she holds nominees to a three-part test that examines their qualifications, whether they believe in the mission of the agency or position they’re being appointed to, and whether they will faithfully execute and uphold the law.
Since McSally and Sinema do not sit on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, they will not officially vote on Barrett’s nomination until the full floor vote on Monday.
McSally’s general-election opponent, Democrat Mark Kelly, has said he opposes expanding the court, but was more focused on the rush to confirm Barrett. He has urged the Senate to wait until after the election and in his only debate with McSally said he would vote against Barrett’s confirmation.
McSally said Kelly’s position on Barrett is disqualifying.
“It’s a travesty,” she said. “… That’s an important distinction that Arizonans need to know about. Without ever meeting her, without hearing one minute of testimony before the Judiciary Committee, my opponent said he would vote no if he were here.”
Through a campaign spokesman, Kelly accused McSally of prioritizing partisan politics over everyday Arizona constituents.
“Putting her political career and (Republican Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell’s agenda first at the expense of Arizonans, Sen. McSally has made it clear that ramming through a lifetime appointment that will rip away protections for Arizonans with pre-existing health conditions is a higher priority for her than passing COVID relief that Arizona small businesses and families needed months ago,” said Kelly spokesman Jacob Peters in a written statement.
If the Senate were to delay a vote on Barrett until after the Nov. 3 election, and were Kelly to win, he could be seated as soon as Nov. 30, and would help to narrow Republicans’ 53-47 majority in the chamber in a post-election, lame-duck session.
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