Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s most conservative member, gave Barrett the constitutional oath at the White House hours after the Senate voted to confirm her. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the judicial oath on Tuesday morning in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. After that event, she will be able to officially begin work on the nation’s highest court.
Justices nominated by President Donald Trump now comprise one-third of the nine-person court.
“I am grateful for the confidence you have expressed in me, and I pledge to you, and to the American people, that I will discharge my duties to the very best of my ability,” Barrett said Tuesday night. “I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.”
“I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes and I will devote myself to preserving it,” she continued.
Trump celebrated Barrett’s nomination on Tuesday and cheered the work of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to push through her nomination.
“She is one of our nation’s most brilliant legal scholars and she will make an outstanding justice on the highest court in the land,” the president said. “It is highly fitting that Justice Barrett fills the seat of a true pioneer for women, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
No Supreme Court confirmation has ever occurred this close to a presidential election, which is just over a week away. Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18, Democrats strongly opposed Trump moving forward with filling the vacancy this close to Election Day, which polls suggest may result in a win for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Ginsburg also expressed a dying wish that her seat not be filled until after the next president takes office on Jan. 20.
But Republicans had the numbers in the Senate to confirm her nomination; in the final vote, only one, Susan Collins of Maine, broke party ranks to vote no.
Several major legal petitions await Barrett and the other justices in her first week on the job, including several related to voting, one on access to Trump’s tax returns and another on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.
Barrett dodged most questions on controversial judicial issues during her confirmation hearings earlier this month and wasn’t willing to say whether she viewed past decisions by the high court on abortion, same-sex marriage, school segregation and birth control as “settled law.” She also claimed to have “no firm views” on climate change and repeatedly said she wouldn’t speak on it, arguing that it was a political issue instead of acknowledging it as settled scientific fact.
She’s been more outspoken on some of those issues throughout her career as a law professor. She’s called Roe v. Wade an “erroneous decision” and said the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit was an “assault on religious liberty.” She also took money from a group that has defended forced sterilization of transgender people.
Barrett, 48, is now the youngest person on the court and only the fifth female justice in its 200-plus-year history. At her age, she will likely serve on the court for decades, cementing Trump’s influence on the judicial system for years to come.
Biden, however, could minimize Trump’s effect if he wins the election next week. He revealed last week that is open to studying the addition of members to the U.S. Supreme Court, a practice known as court-packing, and will start to look at court reforms if he wins the White House.