A divided US Senate on Sunday narrowly advanced President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, setting up her contentious but all-but-certain final confirmation on Monday, just eight days before the presidential election.
In a rare weekend session, the Senate's Republican majority overcame a filibuster by Democrats, and Barrett's nomination cleared a procedural hurdle, 51 votes to 48, to limit debate on Trump's nominee.
Barrett's nomination process, which would essentially lock in a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the high court, has moved with uncommon speed.
Trump, who is trailing in polls against his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, said he wants the 48-year-old Barrett confirmed before the November 3 election and in place in the event the court has to hear an election-related challenge.
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins who faces a tough re-election fight in Maine, and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, voted against moving forward after saying in recent weeks that they opposed confirming a justice so close to a presidential election.
But in a turnabout Saturday, Murkowski told colleagues that even though she opposed her fellow Republicans' rush to fill the seat vacated by the liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she would ultimately vote to confirm Barrett, given that there was no chance of blocking the process.
"Frankly," she said, "I lost that procedural fight."
Murkowski added that while she does "oppose" the exceedingly rapid process that led to Barrett's nomination, she does "not hold it against her as an individual" and will vote for her confirmation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prioritized the confirmation process over all other Senate business, including a new bill to provide relief to millions of Americans, and companies and local authorities hit hard by the coronavirus.
Democrats have warned that Barrett would end up voting to gut Obamacare, which has helped millions of Americans gain health insurance, and perhaps overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision protecting abortion rights.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, on Sunday called the push to confirm a justice so close to an election a "travesty" and "an in-erasable stain on this Republican majority forever more."
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