The Real People Who Confirm A Supreme Court Justice

Elli Ament, Maroon-News Staff

Two weeks before Justice Brett Kavanaugh had his confirmation vote, at about 10:30 p.m., the then Secretary for the Majority Laura Dove was complaining to fellow cloakroom staffers about difficulty scheduling the confirmation vote. Many senators were slated to fly home the weekend the original vote was scheduled and now Senator Daines had his daughter’s wedding competing with the schedule. I was working as a Senate Page at the time. 

I remember the protestors who were present and growing with increasing fury, both for and against Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation. They contrasted and complemented each other, almost like they were meant to go together; those against Kavanaugh often had a closed fist raised, those for Kavanaugh held up an open palm. But protest in a Republican-controlled Senate is futile. 

The vote went ahead, and I remember sitting on the rostrum as the cacophony of screams from the gallery protesters overpowered the yay vote of every Republican senator. Every Republican senator, that is, except for Senator Murkowski, who abstained on account of the accusations made against Kavanaugh, balancing out Senator Steve Daines’ absence to walk his daughter down the aisle. The vote squeaked by, 50 to 48, and on Oct. 6, 2018 at 3:43 p.m. Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court by Roll Call Vote No. 223. 

Following the vote, a protestor yelled from the gallery at Senator Cruz, “Texas will remember this, come November!” Cruz laughed, turned to Vice President Mike Pence, and said, “God, I hope so.” Senator Cruz, and all of the people who voted to confirm Kavanaugh, was not stupid, nor was he ignorant of the Justice’s problems, policy beliefs and what impacts the confirmation could have on his own reelection. Senators are well-informed, capable human beings. 

When Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s day comes, it will be fully-aware people who are voting on whether or not to confirm her. The vote will be scheduled around mundane conflicts, such as weddings and birthdays, and it will be taken down by hand by a legislative clerk who’s just doing their day job (probably a lovely woman named MaryAnn). And they will have the full backing of the United States Constitution to do so.

The Constitution empowers the Senate to have a lot of leeway regarding the nomination process. Following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death just eight months before the 2016 Election, there was controversy on both sides of the aisle about the morality of confirming a justice by senators who could very well be voted out soon. In this case, the sides were reversed. Republicans, who still held the Senate, believed that the open seat should be appointed by the next President. Democrats, who had the presidency, argued there was plenty of time to confirm a new Justice. In the end, Republicans won and Judge Merrick Garland was not considered for Justice Scalia’s seat. 

While there is hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle regarding the confirmation process, lame-duck politics has always brought about hypocrisy. Control in governments is, by nature, often fleeting, and those in power will take advantage of their time to the best of their ability, Democrat or Republican. It is important, both as a voter and as an informed citizen, to recognize the duplicity in politics — the complex human nature that plays a prominent role in government. 

There is not much to be done regarding the confirmation of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court besides protest or direct contact with senators. Even then, party politics will most likely be the starring player of this confirmation process as it was in Justice Kavanaugh’s. But, when you vote, both in this election and all elections to come, I urge you to consider the ramifications of who you are voting for. You are voting for real, complex individuals who will be empowered by the US Constitution to make important decisions every day on your behalf. 

With increasing intensity in every facet of life in the modern-day, it is ever more important to recognize the complexity and importance of the political actions we take because we are shaping history. Trust me, I’ve seen it first-hand.