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Senate sets up procedural vote on Amy Coney Barrett nomination for Sunday

McConnell moved to limit debate after the Senate came in Friday

The stage is set for a Sunday afternoon Senate vote to limit debate on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a cloture motion on the nomination Friday. That sets up a simple-majority vote to wind down the debate one hour after the Senate convenes on Sunday. Under regular order, that vote is expected to kick off at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Convening the Senate over the weekend should allow for the final vote on Barrett’s confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to take place before 8 p.m. Monday, likely to be the last roll call vote before most senators depart the Capitol for the last time until after Election Day.

That is, unless there’s a final agreement on another aid package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate has been in a procedural morass all week, with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer having called a number of roll call votes on procedural matters and the chamber being unable to ever actually adjourn overnight. (It is, in fact, still the legislative day of Monday, Oct. 19, and that day might not end any time soon.)

Schumer’s maneuvering included an effort to force a closed session on Friday, the first for the Senate since 2010. The New York Democrat could accomplish that with only a second on the motion from his side of the aisle.

“The Republican majority is steering the Senate, the Supreme Court and the country in a very dangerous direction,” Schumer said on floor, shortly before calling for the closed session. “The damage to Americans’ faith in these institutions could be lasting. So before we go any further, we should shut off the cameras, close the Senate and talk face to face about what this might mean for the country.”

Once the cameras were turned off and the galleries cleared, it immediately was in order for the GOP to offer a motion to proceed to open session.

The closed session lasted just about 20 minutes.

Friday’s session began at noon with Schumer noting that a quorum was not present for McConnell to make his own procedural moves, leading the clerk to have to call the roll to take attendance before anything else could proceed.

Further procedural votes followed before McConnell was able to file the cloture motion to advance Barrett’s nomination.

Senate Democrats could theoretically force McConnell to hold an all-night session of the Senate on Sunday, but members wouldn’t directly confirm that.

“The tools are limited, as is the time,” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal acknowledged on a Friday morning press call along with his Rhode Island neighbor, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

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“Those of us who are on the Judiciary Committee have had a very strong opportunity to have our say, and to explain to the American public what is going on behind the scenes in this scheme,” Whitehouse said. “But that leaves a great number of our colleagues who feel very passionately about what is going on and simply have not had the chance to speak their piece in the way that those of us on the Judiciary Committee have.”

Both Blumenthal and Whitehouse are Judiciary Committee members who actively participated in the four days of the Barrett confirmation hearings before joining with their Democratic colleagues to boycott Thursday’s markup that sent the nomination to the floor. But only 10 of the 47 members of the Democratic Conference serve on the Judiciary panel.

“A lot of the speaking time will be taken by colleagues who have not yet had a chance to talk about this issue to their constituents,” Blumenthal said.

Kathleen Bever contributed to this report.

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