The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday scheduled a vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to October 22 as a Republican to confirm the election of President Donald Trump ahead of the November 3 election.
The session is without Barrett after two long days of public testimony stressing that she would be her own judge and trying to distance herself from previous positions critical of abortion, the Affordable Care Act, and other issues .
Her confirmation to take the seat of the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems inevitable, as even some Senate Democrats recognized.
Senator Lindsey Graham pushed past Democratic objections to set the panel’s vote on October 22nd recommending her confirmation, even before the final witnesses testify before and against her nomination. The committee has set the vote for next week.
“This is a sham,” said Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar
As a minority, Democrats acknowledge that there is little they can do to deter Republicans from bringing a Conservative majority to justice for years to come. The shift would cement a conservative majority of 6 to 3 in court and would be the most pronounced ideological change in 30 years, from liberal icon to conservative appellate judge.
In Thursday’s arguments, the Democratic senators urged their Republican counterparts to postpone the process. They said the confirmation date was set before all hearings were completed and unknown speeches and writings by Barrett were still coming to light.
Faced with nearly 20 hours of questions from senators, the 48-year-old judge was careful not to take over the president who nominated her and tried to part with writings on controversial subjects as an academic. She skipped the Democrats’ pressing questions about ensuring next month’s election date or preventing voter intimidation, which is enshrined in both federal law, and the peaceful transfer of power from the president.
She also refused to give her opinion on whether the president can forgive himself. “It’s not one I can offer,” she replied to a question from Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy on Wednesday.
Democrats raised these questions because President Donald Trump did it himself.
The Senate Justice Committee questioned Amy Coney Barrett on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, during four days of confirmation hearings [Erin Schaff/Pool via Reuters]Barrett repeatedly pledged to stay open on key issues likely to come to court, including abortion and health care, and said that neither Trump nor anyone else in the White House had tried to sway their views.
“Nobody challenged me to commit in a case,” she said.
Candidates usually refuse to offer more information than they have to, especially when the President’s party controls the Senate, as it does now. But Barrett would not deal with issues that were easily eliminated, including the fact that only Congress can change the date of the election.
She said she was not on a “mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act” despite criticizing the two Supreme Court rulings that preserved important parts of Obama-era health law. She could be in the field when she hears the latest Republican-led challenge on Nov. 10.
Barrett is the most outspoken opponent of abortion, nominated in the Supreme Court for decades, and Democrats fear that her rise could be a turning point that threatens abortion rights.
Her views were unveiled in at least three letters and notices signed over 15 years and in her membership of the Notre Dame Faculty for Life. Republican senators accepted her stance, proudly declaring that, in Graham’s words, she was an “outrageously sociable” conservative who makes history as a role model for other women.
Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley said there was “nothing wrong with endorsing a pious pro-life Christian.”
Barrett refused to say whether the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v Wade on abortion rights was ruled correctly, despite signing an open letter seven years ago describing the ruling as “notorious.”
Democrats repeatedly pushed for the judge’s approach to health care, abortion, racial justice and voting rights, but admitted that they were unlikely to hold back her quick endorsement.
“When you’re in the square,” Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse began a question asking her to stay open on the Supreme Court bench. Barrett readily agreed.
In an exchange with California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, Barrett resisted requests to expressly approve or reject the late Judge Antonin Scalia’s comments on maintaining “racial entitlement” in a major voting case.
“When I said that Justice Scalia’s philosophy was mine too, I certainly didn’t mean to say that every sentence that came out of Justice Scalia’s mouth or every sentence he wrote is one that I would agree with”, said Barrett.
She called the suffrage law a “triumph in the civil rights movement” without discussing the specifics of the earlier challenge. The court will hear another challenge to the law early next year.
One of the more dramatic moments came late Wednesday when Barrett told California Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, that she would not say whether there was racial discrimination in votes or express an opinion on climate change.
Harris asked if she agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote in a 2013 voting case that “there is still discrimination based on voting; nobody doubts that ”.
Barrett said she would “not comment on what any fairness said in a statement”.
When asked if “climate change is happening,” Barrett said she would not get involved because it was “a very controversial matter of public debate”. However, Barrett said that she believes the novel coronavirus is contagious and that smoking causes cancer.
In addition to attempting to overturn the Health Act, Trump has publicly stated that he wanted a judiciary for any disputes arising from the elections, and especially for the increase in postal ballots expected during the pandemic, as voters prefer to vote by mail.
Barrett testified that she had not spoken to Trump or his team about election cases and declined to commit to withdrawing from post-election cases.
She described the role the court would play if asked to intervene. “Certainly the court would not see itself – nor would it – elect the president. It would apply laws designed to protect elections and the right to vote, “Barrett said.
In 2000, the court’s ruling in the Bush v Gore case stalled a Florida recount and effectively ruled the election in George W. Bush’s favor. Barrett served in a minor role on Bush’s legal team in 2000.