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Officials react to vote on Barrett

President Donald Trump and Amy Coney Barrett stand on the Blue Room Balcony after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to her on the South Lawn of the White House White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. Barrett was confirmed to be a Supreme Court justice by the Senate earlier in the evening. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s two U.S. senators were on opposite sides of the vote for federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmation for justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, and Republican and Democratic candidates weighed in with Barrett hearing arguments on the Affordable Care Act next month.

The U.S. Senate voted 52-48 on Monday night to seat Barrett — a judge on the 11-member U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit serving Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin — to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The 87-year-old Ginsburg died Sept. 18 after succumbing to metastatic pancreatic cancer.

The vote came after a series of hearings last week with Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee voted Thursday to forward Barrett’s name to fill the Supreme Court seat, and the Senate voted in favor of considering her nomination Sunday, paving the way for Monday’s vote.

One of the 52 votes in favor of Barrett Monday night was U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Capito met with Barrett on Sept. 30, two weeks after Trump nominated her.

“Her knowledge of the law, her exemplary character, her intelligence, her great acceptance and rave reviews of her by her colleagues and students and folks that know her in her community I think were outstanding and stellar,” Capito said in a video statement released Monday night.

“As a West Virginian, I know many of us feel that Judge Barrett will make great decisions on the Supreme Court as she looks at the Constitution and doesn’t make policy but decides how to move forward and make judgments based on our Constitutional rights,” Capito continued. “That’s the kind of justice we want, and that’s the kind of justice we’re going to have.”

Trump appointed Barrett to the Seventh Circuit in 2017. She previously served as a constitutional law professor at the University of Notre Dame and clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in her early career. She is married to Jesse Barrett and has seven children.

On the side of the vote opposing Barrett’s nomination was U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. West Virginia’s last remaining Democrat in the congressional delegation criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Republicans for pushing through Barrett’s nomination so soon before a presidential election.

“Today the Senate took unprecedented action never before seen in the 240-year history of our country, but it didn’t have to be this way,” Manchin said in a statement Monday. “Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans chose a dangerous, partisan path to push through the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett eight days before this year’s November 3rd election further politicizing the highest court in the land.

“The facts are clear — never before has the president nominated and the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court justice between July and Election Day in a presidential election year,” Manchin continued.

According to The Washington Post, 14 U.S. presidents have appointed 21 Supreme Court justices during election years, with six of those presidents doing so after they lost presidential elections or unable to run for second terms.

Manchin also accused Republicans of hypocrisy for voting for Barrett while blocking the nomination of federal Judge Merrick Garland by former President Barack Obama during the final year of his presidency to replace the Scalia.

“The partisan governing of the last 10 years and the rushed nomination of Judge Barrett only fans the flames of division at a time when Americans are deeply divided,” Manchin said. “Judge Barrett’s nomination and the confirmation process are far from business as usual. I cannot support the nomination of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States on the eve of a Presidential election. It is simple — this nomination should have waited until after the election.”

Capito is running for a second six-year term to the U.S. Senate after winning the seat in 2014. Capito’s Democratic challenger in the U.S. Senate race, Paula Jean Swearengin, also accused Capito of hypocrisy for supporting Barrett’s nomination after opposing Garland’s four years ago.

“Now, with only a week left until election day, she did a complete 180 to push through a partisan nominee,” Swearengin said. “People in this state are at their breaking points; facing evictions, wondering where their next meal will come from, struggling to find work. Despite that, Capito is working overtime to play party politics.”

According to the results of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll, 49 percent of respondents said that Trump should pick the next Supreme Court justice, compared to 41 percent who believe the winner of the Nov. 3 election should make the nomination with 10 percent undecided.

With Barrett now sworn in, she’ll be on the bench when the Supreme Court hears arguments Nov. 10 in a Texas-led lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act. West Virginia is one of 20 states that joined together to file suit over what’s often called ObamaCare. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey released a statement Monday night praising Barrett’s nomination.

“Justice Barrett will be an exceptional jurist on the U.S. Supreme Court and a leader for generations to come,” Morrisey said. “She will interpret the Constitution as it is written. West Virginians already witnessed Justice Barrett’s brilliance during her confirmation hearing, and I am deeply convinced they will admire her as a rule-of-law judge, devoted mother and a principled woman of faith.”

Employment law attorney Sam Brown Petsonk, Morrisey’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election, has made the ACA lawsuit a key part is his campaign against Morrisey. A request for comment from the Petsonk campaign was not returned Tuesday.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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