SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected Thursday to advance U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the full Senate in a party-line vote.
And a majority of Utahns favor confirmation of President Donald Trump’s conservative pick to replace the left-leaning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month.
A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found 61% of voters in the state want to see Barrett become the newest member of the high court. The survey shows 30% oppose her confirmation, while 10% aren’t sure.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who played a leading role in the confirmation hearings last week, will be among the GOP senators on the committee voting to move Barrett’s nomination forward. He has enthusiastically supported the federal appeals court judge since Trump nominated her Sept. 26.
On Parler, the conservative alternative to Twitter, Lee posted last week: “Amy Coney Barrett = Super-human.”
“One look at Judge Barrett’s resume and anyone can tell how qualified she is to be on the court. But watching her answer questions in real time has let the American people see how intelligent, warm and empathetic she really is,” Lee told the Deseret News on Wednesday.
“So I am not surprised that Utah voters overwhelmingly support her confirmation and I look forward to voting to advance her nomination out of committee Thursday.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has also thrown his support behind Barrett. He said last week he would vote to confirm her when the nomination reaches the Senate floor.
Not surprisingly, the poll shows 91% of Utahns who identify as conservatives favor Barrett’s confirmation, while 83% of liberals oppose it. Moderates were more evenly split, with 41% in favor and 39% opposed. A fifth of moderate voters weren’t sure.
The survey of 1,000 likely Utah voters was conducted Oct. 12-17 by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Also, 55% of Utahns say the Supreme Court vacancy is important in determining their vote for president, while 38% say it’s not important, according to the poll. Only 8% aren’t sure.
Voters recognize the importance of nominating and confirming a Supreme Court justice, Rasmussen said.
“However, there is little or no evidence suggesting that the nomination and confirmation hearings of Judge Barrett have moved any votes. It appears to have confirmed voters’ preexisting decisions,” he said.
A Trump supporter can see it as a further reason to support him, while a supporter of Democratic nominee Joe Biden sees it confirming that view as well, Rasmussen said.
In a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll last month, voters ranked the economy, handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and health care ahead of Supreme Court and other federal judicial appointments as important in determining their vote for president.
Utah Democrats in the poll were more likely than Republicans to say the vacancy matters in their presidential vote with 64% saying it’s important compared to 52% of GOP members.
Democrats have accused Republicans of rushing to confirm Barrett so she can join the court to take part in a case on Nov. 10 expected to determine the future of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats also argue that the next president should choose the Supreme Court nominee. Biden leads Trump in major polls.
Scott Howell, a former Democratic Utah Senate leader and surrogate for Biden, said Barrett’s demeanor and intelligence at the confirmation hearings impressed him. But the Republicans working to “ram this through” would keep him from voting for her if he were a U.S. senator.
“I think the process is what would be the thing that would hold me back,” he said.
Politico reported that Senate Democrats intend to boycott the committee vote Thursday as an act of protest.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated he would move quickly to vote on Barrett’s nomination once it comes out of committee. He has scheduled a confirmation vote for next Monday.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning they could lose three votes and still confirm Barrett. Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie.
Only GOP Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, has said she would vote against Barrett if the vote comes up before the election. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has said she does not support taking up a Supreme Court vacancy this close to an election, but has not indicated how she would vote on Barrett’s nomination.
Should the Senate confirm Barrett, conservatives would own a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. Democrats have pushed Biden to expand the number of justices if he wins the election. The former vice president has said he’s “not a fan” of court packing, but has not said whether he would support that effort.