The US Senate began final debate Friday on conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to join the Supreme Court, with her all-but-certain confirmation to give President Donald Trump a key victory ahead of the November 3 election.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell extolled Barrett's credentials to fill the vacant ninth seat on the high court, while dismissing Democrats' complaints that he and Trump had jettisoned unwritten rules against naming a new justice so close to an election.
"This outstanding nominee is exceptionally suited to this job," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
"She's demonstrated she has the deep legal expertise, dispassionate judicial temperament, and sheer intellectual horsepower, that the American people deserve to have on their Supreme Court."
Announced on September 26, only eight days after the death of the court's liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barrett's nomination has moved with uncommon speed. Trump said he wants her confirmed before the election and in place in the event the court has to hear an election-related challenge.
McConnell prioritized the confirmation process over all other Senate business, including a new bill to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in relief to people, companies and local authorities hit hard by the coronavirus.
A 48-year-old mother of seven and law professor who became a federal appeals court judge, Barret is popular on the right for her conservative Catholic beliefs, her adherence to the somewhat fundamentalist school of US judicial thought called originalism, and especially for her opposition to abortion.
Her confirmation will give conservatives a decisive 6-3 majority on the court, which Trump has said he hopes will allow it to overturn a landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling, and also, in a case coming up next month, to rule illegal the Affordable Care Act which expanded health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
Debate by the full Senate opened Friday, and should continue through Saturday and Sunday, after Barrett's initial confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which democrats boycotted.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer deployed several parliamentary manuevers to try to delay the debate, but Republicans' solid 53-47 dominance of the chamber easily overcome them.
"Democrats will not lend an ounce of legitimacy to the process," said Schumer.
The issue at hand, he said, is about "the fundamental rights of the American people."
But McConnell was firm about pushing ahead.
"We will give this nominee the vote she deserves no later than Monday," he said.