Judge Amy Coney Barrett moved one step closer to a seat on the Supreme Court on Thursday as the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced her nomination with solely Republican support after Democrats boycotted the vote in protest of what they viewed as an illegitimate confirmation process.

The vote was 12 to 0, with no Democrats present to officially register their objections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to take procedural steps Friday to bring her confirmation to the floor, with Barrett being confirmed by Monday evening, putting her in position to hear key cases involving potential election disputes and health care.

But before then, Democrats are expected to throw up more procedural roadblocks — as they have been doing all week — and launch numerous floor speeches to frame what they say is the imminent threat Barrett poses to the future of abortion rights, gay rights and the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans, however, have been undeterred, vowing to swiftly install a 48-year-old jurist whose qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court have not been in dispute. Barrett’s installation would solidify a 6-3 conservative majority on the court and give President Trump his third successfully confirmed Supreme Court pick, just days before the Nov. 3 election.

“I could not live with myself if I denied her her day,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Of Democrats, Graham insisted that Republicans are “not going to allow them to take over the committee.”

Graham also defended Barrett’s personal beliefs after Democrats expressed concern during the confirmation hearings that her presence on the Supreme Court would result in further abortion restrictions. Both liberals and conservatives have suggested, based on her academic writings, personal beliefs and rulings as a judge, that she would support restricting or outright overturning the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.

Barrett repeatedly declined to offer her legal views on presidential authority and voter intimidation, and insisted that she wasn’t familiar with Trump’s positions on issues such as climate change and the health-care law.

“To all the people out there wondering about Judge Barrett I can tell you this: The law of Amy will not be applied to the case and controversy,” Graham added. “It will be the law as written in the Constitution or by statute or whatever regulatory body she is going to review. She will take her job on without agenda.”

Even though Democratic senators skipped the committee vote, they made their presence known. In their seats were 10 large portraits of constituents — whether it was Carrie from Delaware or Kenny from Illinois — who had benefited from protections mandated by the 2010 health-care law that ensures that millions of Americans with preexisting medical conditions can’t be denied coverage or pay more for insurance.

Each person’s story had been highlighted by Democrats during Barrett’s confirmation hearings last week, which centered on health care and whether she would be a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act. The court will hear oral arguments Nov. 10 in the GOP-led challenge, backed by the Trump administration, to invalidate the law.

“No matter where you come down on this, this is personal,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said. “And this Republican majority and this president have chosen to make, as their closing argument, that they're going to push through a nominee whose record shows us just where she's going to come out on so many things.”

Trump injected his own thoughts as to what the Supreme Court should do on the health-care law in excerpts of a “60 Minutes” interview released Thursday. “It’ll be so good if they end it,” he said.

And on Barrett herself, Trump made his pleasure known in a tweet: “Judiciary Committee approves Judge Barrett. Moves to full Senate for final vote. Big day for America!”

Trump nominated Barrett, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on Sept. 26, eight days after the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Rather than showing up for the committee vote, nine Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee — all except Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the party’s vice-presidential nominee — and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) gathered on the front steps of the Capitol to decry the confirmation process for Barrett and how they expect her to rule as a justice.

“The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is the most illegitimate process I have ever witnessed in the Senate,” Schumer said. “Her potential confirmation will have dire, dire consequences for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and our entire country for generations to come.”

Schumer, who accused the Senate Republicans of “conducting the most rushed, the most partisan, and the least legitimate nomination to the Supreme Court in the nation’s history,” said the Democrats “will not lend a single ounce of legitimacy to this sham vote in the Judiciary Committee.

Protesters on both sides of the debate made their views known. Some heckled the Democrats with profanities as they spoke. Outside the Senate building, others dressed in the crimson robes and white bonnets of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the television drama based on Margaret Atwood’s book, shouted “Trump-Pence, out now” and “Stop the confirmation.”

For their part, Republicans again warned the public that Democrats will surely move to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court should they win the White House and flip control of the Senate in less than two weeks.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, facing pressure from the party’s base to embrace “court-packing,” said in his forthcoming “60 Minutes” interview that he would propose a bipartisan commission to study potential court reforms but that the issue of expanding the Supreme Court was certainly a “live ball.”

Graham mused that the Democrats would be positioned to expand the Supreme Court to at least 13 justices. In a brief interview after the committee vote, Graham dismissed Biden’s commission proposal and said if Democrats regain the levers of power in Washington, “they’re going to pack the court and Joe’s not going to be able to stop it.”

“As Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out, there goes the crown jewels of the American republic,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said Thursday of the court-packing proposals. “Our independent judiciary becomes nothing but another political body, a second legislative or political branch.”

In light of Biden’s comments, Democratic senators still tried to keep the focus on Barrett’s looming confirmation vote and the elections. Of the former Democratic vice president’s proposal, Schumer said that “everything is on the table when we get the majority.”

But “first job, get the majority,” Schumer said.

So Democrats continued to cast Barrett as a threat to health care and reproductive rights.

“Last week Democrats participated in the nomination hearings because we wanted to show what was at stake for America if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. We made our case about risks to affordable care, especially the Affordable Care Act, reproductive freedom, the right to vote and equality for all,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said at the news conference. “We believe both the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade could be lost.”

Democrats have lashed out at Republicans, calling them hypocrites based on their actions in 2016 when the court had a vacancy.

Then, McConnell refused to consider nominee Merrick Garland, the choice of President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

McConnell and Senate Republicans, including Graham, insisted that the president chosen in November of that year, eight months after Obama’s nomination, should fill the seat.

Republicans argue that the circumstances now are different because Republicans hold the White House and the Senate majority.

Democrats also accused Graham of breaking committee rules to hold the vote, since the panel generally requires two members of the minority to be present to conduct committee business.

But Republican aides said that if a majority of the entire committee is present — which on Thursday it was — that means the Judiciary Committee can go ahead, under long-standing precedents. There have been more than a half-dozen instances, including under Democratic control, since 2006 when the committee has conducted business without two members of the minority being there.

3:02 p.m.
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Democrats criticize Senate Republicans for pushing ahead with Barrett committee vote as they boycott

By Paulina Firozi

Democrats criticized Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee for going through with the vote to advance Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate, accusing them of breaking committee rules by voting even while Democrats boycotted the proceedings.

The committee voted 12 to 0, with no Democrats present to register their objections. The committee generally requires two minority members to be present to conduct committee business.

“This is not a decision the members of the committee have taken lightly, but a Republican majority has left us no choice,” Senate Minority Leader Charles. E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a news conference on the steps of the Capitol following the committee vote. “We are boycotting this illegitimate hearing.”

Schumer, who accused the Senate Republicans of “conducting the most rushed, the most partisan and the least legitimate nomination to the Supreme Court in the nation’s history,” said the Democrats “will not lend a single ounce of legitimacy to this sham vote in the judiciary committee.”

The Democratic members of the committee repeated concerns they expressed during Barrett’s confirmation hearing last week, including around voting issues, abortion rights and the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

“Last week Democrats participated in the nomination hearings because we wanted to show what was at stake for America if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. We made our case about risks to affordable care, especially the Affordable Care Act, reproductive freedom, the right to vote and equality for all,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the committee. “We believe both the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade could be lost.”

She said because Democrats did not have the votes to defeat the nomination in committee, “there was no further reason to participate in a committee process that has been used to rush this nominee forward.”

During the committee hearing that concluded just before the news conference began, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) criticized his colleagues’ decision to skip the vote.

“That was their choice. It will be my choice to vote the nominee out of the committee,” Graham said. “We’re not going to allow them to take over the committee."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) called it a “surreal environment we’re in where our Democratic colleagues announced yesterday they are going boycott one of the most important committees votes we’ll have during our entire senatorial tenure.”

1:48 p.m.
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Graham defends Barrett’s record: ‘The law of Amy will not be applied’

By Paulina Firozi

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) defended Barrett’s record ahead of the panel’s vote to advance her nomination to the Supreme Court.

“I’ve been here for a while, and I’ve never seen anyone more capable than Judge Barrett on the law,” he said, praising her “deep and wide understanding of the law."

“And to all the people out there wondering about Judge Barrett I can tell you this: The law of Amy will not be applied to the case and controversy,” Graham added. “It will be the law as written in the Constitution or by statute or whatever regulatory body she is going to review. She will take her job on without agenda.”

Graham also defended Barrett’s personal values after Democrats expressed concern during the confirmation hearings that her presence on the Supreme Court would result in further abortion restrictions. Both liberals and conservatives have suggested, based on her academic writings, personal beliefs and rulings as a judge, that the judge would support restricting or outright overturning the landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade.

“It’s okay to be a complete person and be on the Supreme Court. It’s okay to be pro-life,” Graham said in talking about the judge ahead of the vote. “She embraces the pro-life cause in her personal life, but she understands judging is not a cause, it is a process. She embraces her faith like millions of other Americans.”

1:45 p.m.
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Biden says he would create bipartisan commission to study court system ‘because it’s getting out of whack’

By John Wagner

Biden said in an interview excerpt released Thursday that he would create a bipartisan commission to study the court system “because it’s getting out of whack.”

The former vice president, who has avoided answering whether he would want to expand the Supreme Court by adding more justices, said in the interview with “60 Minutes” that the commission would look at that issue among others and make recommendations in 180 days.

“What I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative,” Biden told interviewer Norah O’Donnell. “And I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack.”

Pressed by O’Donnell about whether the study will focus on “court-packing,” Biden suggested it would be far broader and “go well beyond packing.”

“The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want,” he said. “Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”

The full interview is scheduled to air Sunday.

Biden has faced calls from many in his party’s left wing to support an expansion of the Supreme Court in response to the Republican push to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination before the election.

1:18 p.m.
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Republican-led committee approves Barrett nomination

By Seung Min Kim

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with solely Republican support Thursday, as Democrats boycotted the vote in protest of what they viewed as an illegitimate confirmation process.

The vote was 12 to 0, with no Democrats present to officially register their objections. The Democratic senators, along with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), will hold a news conference later Thursday morning.

“That was their choice,” Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said. “It will be my choice to vote the nominee out of committee. We’re not going to allow them to take over the committee.”

Aides to the Democratic senators had placed 10 large portraits of people who benefited from the Affordable Care Act in their seats. Each person was someone whom the Democratic senators spoke about last week at Barrett’s confirmation hearing, which senators centered on the issue of health care and the future of Obamacare.

Democrats are sure to accuse Graham of breaking committee rules to hold the vote, since the panel generally requires two members of the minority to be present to conduct committee business.

But Republican aides said if a majority of the entire committee is present — which, on Thursday, it was — that means the Judiciary Committee can go ahead, under long-standing precedents. There have been more than a half-dozen instances, including under Democratic control, since 2006 when the committee has conducted business without two members of the minority being there.

12:07 p.m.
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Democrats to boycott committee vote on Barrett nomination

By Donna Cassata

The 10 Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee plan to boycott the session Thursday to protest Republicans’ fast-tracking of the Barrett nomination.

“There is no precedent — none — for confirming a Supreme Court justice this late in a presidential election year, with more than 40 million ballots already cast,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the committee, said Wednesday in a statement.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), announced the boycott.

“We will not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just 12 days before the culmination of an election that is already underway,” Schumer said.

Democrats have lashed out at Republicans, calling them hypocrites, based on their actions in 2016 when the court had a vacancy.

Then, McConnell refused to consider Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, the choice of President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

McConnell and Senate Republicans, including Graham, insisted that the president chosen in November of that year, eight months after Obama’s nomination, should fill the seat.

Republicans argue that the circumstances are different because Republicans hold the White House and the Senate majority.