Oct 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Amy Coney Barrett's immediate impact

Illustration of scales of justice with a Supreme Court chair weighing one side down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In her first week on the job, Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

  • At that point, she's officially on the job, even if a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House comes later.
  • The official said they're following the same speedy process as they did for Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. He was confirmed on a Saturday and began hearing cases on Tuesday.
  • This means Barrett could weigh in immediately on election-related cases piling up, including emergency petitions on extending deadlines for counting absentee ballots.

Between the lines: Barrett could seal a majority delivering Republicans some decisive wins.

  • Because of a 4-4 tie last week, the court let stand an extended ballot-counting deadline in Pennsylvania. Roberts joined the three remaining liberals, while his conservative colleagues voted to block the extension.
  • If that conservative bloc held and was joined by Barrett, it could change how ballots are counted after Election Day in two critical swing states, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
  • More election-related lawsuits could reach the court in the coming weeks.

What’s next: Barrett also could jump straight into some enormously consequential work on the court’s regular schedule.

  • On Nov. 4, the court will hear a significant case on the collision of LGBTQ rights and religious freedom: whether Philadelphia violated the First Amendment by requiring adoption agencies to serve same-sex couples.
  • The week of Nov. 10, the court is scheduled to hear the Affordable Care Act case that dominated Barrett’s confirmation hearings.
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