The US is in the latest spurt of elections. That’s why we’ll be keeping you up to date with what’s happening in the United States in our US newsletter “Twenty / Twenty” for the next two weeks. Today Juliane Schäuble writes from Washington. Click here for the free plan.
Monday at 8:06 p.m. The US Senate had approved the nomination of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, by 52 to 48 votes, only one Republican (Susan Collins) refused to join. The Republican senators on the left side of the room jumped up (or stood up, many of the members in this Chamber of Congress are no longer the youngest), shouted “Yes,” and clapped. Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who finally donned his mask after the vote, had some of his colleagues “punch” him – they had won.
It’s a major victory for their president – eight days before the election that many Americans call perhaps the most important of their lives. With the confirmation of the 48-year-old lawyer as the 115th chief justice, the conservative majority grows to six or three judges. Trump rushed back the same evening from one of his countless gatherings – he currently comes to three a day – in potentially election-winning Swing State Pennsylvania to take Barrett’s oath of the constitution at the South Lawn of the White House.
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Not far from here, in the rose garden, he, his wife Melania, two senators and others in attendance became infected with the corona virus a month ago at the celebration of Barrett’s nomination. This will now be sworn in by chairman John Roberts this Tuesday. Then she should go straight to work. While conservative senators cheered the arch-religious base within the election gift, outside the Capitol protested Barrett’s nomination. They fear that many socio-political achievements could be reversed with the voice of the deeply religious judge.
Democrats criticize Barrett’s lashes
The photo in the Senate is also symbolic: there was a yawning void in the rows to the right of the room when the result was announced. The Democrats, all of whom had voted in full, but one after the other – including Vice President Kamala Harris – had already left plenary on this point. Officially because of Corona, but also as a token of protest. You criticize the beating of these influential people so close to the election. In their opinion, the new president elected on November 3 should have decided on the successor to liberal judge icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The fact that Trump himself cited possible legal proceedings regarding vote counting that could end up in the Supreme Court as justification for the record-breaking quick nomination has not allayed Democrats’ concerns. But they have lost this voice. They now hope that voters will remember when they cross over in a week at the latest. Or in the ever-theatrical words of McConnell’s Democratic opponent Chuck Schumer, the American people will never forget this “blatant hypocrisy.” “October 26, 2020 will lapse as one of the darkest days in the 231-year history of the US Senate.”
Barrett’s confirmation may have been the last act of the Republican majority
Regardless, it could have been the last act of the Republican majority in the Senate. According to surveys, it is quite possible that the Democrats will take over this Chamber two years after the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, construction workers are erecting scaffolding in front of the white marble steps on the west side of the Capitol, signaling the next politically significant event. On January 20, either Donald Trump will be sworn in here for his second term – or Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. Also in this race, in the latest outbreak of the election campaign, points more to a victory for the Democratic challenger than for the incumbent party.
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The start of work is likely due to the challenges the pandemic poses to major events such as the inauguration of a US president. I also realized how fast everything is now. I moved here two and a half years ago to cover this torn country in Trump’s days. Much turned out differently than I expected, including the election campaign. We will soon know how things will go from here, if the country can make a fresh start.
Washington is already preparing for the turmoil on election night and the days after
On my walk from my home office to the Capitol, however, I also noticed what the capital is still preparing for: the turmoil on election night and the days after. In the city center, the windows of office buildings, hotels and shops are boarded up again. Residents of downtown and business people, already suffering from the emptiness caused by the pandemic and the aftermath of the unrest following the death of African American George Floyd, are preparing for even more difficult times.
Stay hopeful! Tomorrow my colleague Anna Sauerbrey will greet you at this point, who, like Christoph von Marschall, is traveling especially for the elections – she has just written to us that she has arrived safely in Pennsylvania. You’ll hear from me again in three days!