By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The high-stakes confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is underway Monday as Senate Republicans push for a final vote before Election Day despite Democratic calls to let voters decide who should pick a new justice.
Trump nominated Barrett to fill the seat left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The four days of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, overseen by its chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, will be unprecedented, with some members participating virtually and in-person. Barrett will appear at the witness table to face questions.
The hearing started at 9 a.m. and will be live streamed on ABC News Live.
Barrett, 48, a devout Roman Catholic, was a law clerk to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, considers him her mentor and follows his originalist interpretation of the Constitution. She practiced law at a Washington firm for two years before returning to her alma mater, Notre Dame Law School, to teach. She was nominated by Trump to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2017 and confirmed by the Senate that October in a 55-43 vote.
Here is how the news is developing Monday. All times Eastern:
Oct 12, 1:49 pm
Blackburn says Democrats should be more supportive of a ‘female legal superstar’
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., focused her remarks on the rhetoric around Barrett as a woman and mother, questioning why her Democratic colleagues aren’t more supportive of someone she called a “successful female legal superstar.”
“Given your track record, you would think that my colleagues would jump at the opportunity to support a successful female legal superstar, who is highly regarded by both her Democratic and Republican colleagues, and who is a working mom. But as today’s increasingly paternalistic and frankly disrespectful arguments have shown, if they had it their way, only certain kinds of women would be allowed into this hearing room,” Blackburn said.
“On that note, not so long ago in another hearing they scrutinized your commitment to your Catholic faith and tried to use that as a way to question your competency and your professionalism,” Blackburn said, referring to Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearing to a federal appeals court in 2017, though Barrett’s faith has not yet been raised by Democrats in her Supreme Court nomination.
Blackburn, as several of her GOP colleagues before her had done, raised the Justice Kavanaugh hearings and deemed the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh another effort “to delay and obstruct legitimate constitutionally sound confirmation hearing.”
“Let’s not forget it was the Democrats who took an axe to the process in 2018 when they dropped last-minute, unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. We still don’t have the full story about their level and manner of coordination with activists and mainstream media outlets, but what we do know is that they turned that confirmation into a circus.”
Oct 12, 1:53 pm
Harris claims Barrett will ‘undo the legacy’ of Ginsburg
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has the historic opportunity this week to question a Supreme Court nominee while on the ticket of a major political party. Appearing virtually, she began her opening statement by criticizing Senate Republicans for holding the hearing and disregarding, she said, the health and safety of Capitol staff.
“The decision to hold this hearing now is reckless and places the facility’s workers, janitorial staff and congressional aides and Capitol police at risk, not to mention that while tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills,” Harris said. “The Senate should be prioritizing coronavirus relief and providing financial support to those families.”
Harris said if Republicans succeed with their nomination, they will likely eliminate protections for 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions –without regard for the legacy of Justice Ginsburg.
“By replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone who will undo her legacy, President Trump is attempting to roll back Americans’ rights for decades to come,” Harris said. “Every American must understand that with this nomination equal justice under law is at stake. Our voting rights are at stake. Workers’ rights are at stake. Consumer rights are at stake. The right to a safe and legal abortion is at stake. And holding corporations accountable is at stake.”
After Harris wrapped, Barrett’s children and sisters reentered the hearing room, in a sign that Barrett’s opening statement isn’t far off.
More on other key questions the court will consider this term can be found here.
Oct 12, 1:10 pm
Booker says nomination is about overturning Roe v. Wade
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said in his opening statement that Republicans are rushing through the process with the ultimate goal of overturning not just the Affordable Care Act but Roe v. Wade, calling the whole hearing “a charade.”
“President Trump has explicitly stated he would only put up Supreme Court nominees that would overturn Roe V. Wade. He said it clearly. We should believe him,” Booker began.
“We’re here because in the middle of an ongoing election, Republicans have found a nominee in Judge Barrett, to do what they couldn’t do, subvert the will of the American people and overturn the ACA and overturn Roe v. Wade,” Booker said. “That’s what this is about.”
In an appeal across the aisle, Booker reminded, “If one of my colleagues will stand up on this committee, we will hold this over until after the election,” before ripping into the process.
“It’s not normal the senators are rushing through a confirmation hearing, violating their own words and their own statements, betraying the trust of the American people and their colleagues and failing to take in this hearing, the most basic safety protections to protect people around them, all to ensure that tens of millions of people will lose their health care when we’re seven months into one of the worst public health crises in our country,” Booker concluded.
Oct 12, 1:03 pm
Ernst defends Barrett’s faith yet no Democrats have raised her religion in the hearing so far
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, facing a tight reelection fight, went after Democrats for what she called attacks on Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith — as her colleague Sen. Hawley had done before — yet no Democrats have raised her Catholic faith in the hearing so far.
“This week will be an opportunity to dig into your background further and understand more about your judicial philosophy,” Ernst said to Barrett. “But what your political opponents want to paint you as is a TV or cartoon version of a religious radical. A so-called ‘handmaid’ that feeds into the ridiculous stereotypes they set out to lambaste people of faith in America.”
“They are attacking you as a mom and a woman of faith because they cannot attack your qualifications,” she added.
Ernst, who has served in the Senate since 2015, also said, “It frustrates me and it frustrates my fellow Iowans that the Supreme Court has become a super legislature for a Congress that, frankly, won’t come together and discuss the tough issues and do its job.”
Oct 12, 11:41 am
Hawley claims Democrats show ‘religious bigotry,’ defends Barrett’s Catholic faith
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who made President Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist of potential nominees himself, used his opening statement to define “a pattern and practice of religious bigotry” he said Democratic members of the committee have shown against Barrett.
“This freedom of conscience and religious liberty underscores all of our other rights because it tells the government that it cannot tell us what to think or who we can assembly with or how we can worship or what we can say,” Hawley said. “This bedrock principle of American liberty is now under attack.”
Hawley deemed stories attacking Judge Barrett’s faith “an attempt to bring back the veto power of the powerful over the religious beliefs and sincerely held convictions of the American people.”
He suggested a public official’s freedom of religion is at stake in the confirmation hearing.
“Judge Barrett is a Catholic. We all know that… Heck, 65 million Americans are Catholics and many, many millions more are Christians of other persuasions. Are they to be told that they cannot serve in public office? That they are not welcome in the public here unless the members of this committee sign off on their religious beliefs?” Hawley said. “I don’t want to live in such an America.”
“I hope when we look back at the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Barrett — soon I hope to be Justice Amy Barrett — one thing I hope we say is that was the year that the attempt to bring back religious test for office was finally stopped,” Hawley concluded.
He did not mention Trump has repeatedly attacked the faith of his political rivals.
Oct 12, 11:22 am
Coons deems Barrett a danger to election, health care and ‘long-settled rights’
Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, hit on what he called the dangers of holding the hearing after two members of the committee have tested positive for COVID-19 and even more have come in contact with someone who has tested positive in recent days — calling it a “rushed, hypocritical, partisan process [that] should not proceed.”
“This is an ongoing national emergency and as an exercise in civics, not politics, we in Congress should be working day and night to deliver them that [COVID] relief. Instead my colleagues are barreling forward with a confirmation hearing that’s distracting from our responsibility to our constituents and threatens to further tear our nation apart,” Coons said.
Coons added, “Proceeding with this nomination at this time will do harm to what remaining trust we have in each other, the Senate as a whole and potentially to the court itself.”
As with Democrats before him, he humanized the Affordable Care Act by recalling stories of constituents who have relied on the law, and he said he doesn’t think the timing of Judge Barrett’s nomination is any “coincidence.”
“It is beyond ironic this administration, which has failed to respond to this pandemic, is rushing through a judge they believe will vote to strip away health care protections,” he said.
“Judge Barrett I’m not suggesting you made some secret deal with President Trump. But I believe the reason you were chosen is precisely because your judicial philosophy as repeatedly stated could lead to the outcomes President Trump has sought. And I think that has dramatic and potentially harmful consequences with regards to the election, the Affordable Care Act and long-settled rights,” he said.
Oct 12, 11:11 am
Klobuchar appeals to American people: ‘Your health care is on the line’
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a former prosecutor, took the Democratic case directly to the American people in her opening statement, telling them to call Republican senators and tell them “enough is enough.”
“Why, Senator Cruz, does President Trump matter?” she began in response to her GOP colleague immediately preceding her. “He is putting the Supreme Court in place in his words to, quote, ‘look at the ballots,’ end quote.”
“Well, I won’t concede that this election is headed to the courts because you know at home exactly what the president is up to. That’s why you are voting. That’s why you are voting in droves. Why are you voting? Well, you know that your rights, your health care is on the line.”
Klobuchar emphasized that Judge Barrett has been critical on multiple occasions of the court upholding the Affordable Care Act — and the timing of its oral arguments on its fate on Nov. 10.
“To the women of America, we have come so far and in the name of RBG. We should not go backwards,” she said. “This isn’t Donald Trump’s country. It is yours.”
“This shouldn’t be Donald Trump’s judge. It should be yours.”
Oct 12, 11:00 am
Cruz claims all Republicans support preexisting conditions
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ticked off a list of Judge Barrett’s accomplishments and gave a misleading statement on where Republicans have historically stood on preexisting conditions.
“Every single member of the Senate agrees that pre-existing conditions can and should be protected. Period. The end,” Cruz said. “There is complete unanimity on this.”
But Cruz is the senator whose filibuster in 2013 shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act which covers preexisting conditions.
Cruz, appearing virtually, tested negative for COVID-19 but has been self-quarantining after coming into contact with Lee, who tested positive yet delivered his opening statement in-person and without a mask.
Oct 12, 10:52 am
Whitehouse calls Trump ‘an irresponsible botch’
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., deemed Judge Barrett’s nomination and President Donald Trump’s inability to keep the White House safe from COVID-19 both “an irresponsible botch.”
“America is worried about one thing above all else right now and it’s our health. This hearing itself is a microcosm of Trump’s dangerous ineptitude in dealing with the COVID pandemic. Trump can’t even keep the White House safe. Here it’s the chairman’s job to see to the committee’s safety. And though his words were reassuring, I don’t know who has been tested,” Whitehouse said, noting that Graham didn’t release the results of a second test.
“The whole thing, just like Trump, is an irresponsible botch. The irony is that this slapdash hearing targets the Affordable Care Act,” Whitehouse said.
He went on to say Americans see this nomination as an “ugly hasty hypocritical power grab” and that “they know what it means for their health care in the midst of a pandemic.”
“For Republicans, there is no washing your hands of responsibility for the results that your president has told us will ensue,” he added.
Oct 12, 10:23 am
GOP Sen. Lee, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, appears in-person
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who tested positive for coronavirus after Judge Barrett’s Rose Garden nomination event on Sept. 26, appeared in-person and delivered his opening statement without a mask, despite heightened COVID-19 fears on Capitol Hill.
He used his time to criticize the “politicization” of Judge Barrett’s nomination and reminded colleagues that Barrett is a judge, not a policymaker, and should be asked questions accordingly.
“These tactics of creating fear and uncertainty and doubt, these tactics that result in relentless protests outside of the one branch of government that isn’t political astound me, dismay me and disappoint me. They reflect the fact that we have allowed for the politicization of the one branch of the federal government that is not political,” Lee said.
“We ourselves within the legislative branch have got to do a better job by focusing on the fact that the Constitution is not just a judicial thing. It’s also a legislative thing. It is also an executive thing. It is an American thing. It’s one of the many reasons why I will object to anyone, anytime anyone tries to attribute to you a policy position and hold you to that,” he concluded.
Lee’s presence would appear to violate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolation guidelines as he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2, just 10 days ago.
“Good news,” said Graham, leading the hearing. “Senator Lee’s enthusiasm for the dormant Commerce Clause convinces me you have made a full recovery.”
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