Amy Coney Barrett: Trump nominee testifies in Supreme Court hearing
US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett said she was "honored and humbled" to be President Trump's election for a Supreme Court seat during a tense Senate confirmation hearing.
The 48-year-old conservative lawyer promised to judge legal cases impartially.
But her selection so close to the November 3rd presidential election sparked a political battle between Republicans and Democrats.
The panel's top Republican initially predicted a "controversial week".
Who is Trump's Supreme Court election?
Amy Coney Barrett in her own words
Judge Barrett's approval would cement a Conservative majority of 6 to 3 for the nine-member court and shift its ideological balance for decades to come.
President Trump chose Judge Barrett to replace Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month at the age of 87.
The Republicans, who currently have a slim majority in the U.S. Senate, the body that approves Supreme Court justices, are trying to finalize the process before Trump runs into the election against Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The court's nine judges serve life-long appointments, and their decisions can affect public order in everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance.
Republicans confident amid political brawl
Analyzer box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter
Supreme Court confirmation hearings are always high political drama. With the presidential election only three weeks away and the coronavirus pandemic still upsetting American life, the current environment on the Senate Judiciary Committee is particularly volatile.
During the opening speech, the Democrats indicated they want Amy Coney Barrett's hearings on the Republican rush for a new judiciary before the elections and the possibility that she could be a decisive voice in the increasingly popular ones passed under Democratic President Barack Health reforms crush Obama.
To bring this point home, aides placed photos of Americans who had benefited from "Obamacare" on easels in the room as the Democratic senators began to speak.
Democrats avoid the divisive issue of abortion, which motivates political opponents as well as allies, because they believe it is a more favorable political reason.
For their part, Republicans want these confirmation hearings to run as normal. They know it will be a partisan brawl, but they have already won two Supreme Court confirmatory bouts during Donald Trump's presidency.
Circumstances may be unusual, but when they stick together - and focus on Judge Barrett's professional and personal qualifications - they feel confident they can prevail.
Read more: Anthony's Complete Analysis
Who Is Amy Coney Barrett?
Preferred by socially conservatives based on records on issues such as abortion and gay marriage
a devout Catholic, but says her beliefs do not affect her view of law
is an originalist, which means interpreting the U.S. Constitution as the authors intended without moving with the times
lives in Indiana, has seven children, including two adopted from Haiti
What is Judge Barrett's speech?
In an effective interview for the job, the verification hearing gives Judge Barrett the opportunity to explain her legal philosophy and qualifications for the lifelong position.
Prepared remarks made public ahead of Monday's meeting include her thanks to President Trump for "entrusting me with this deep responsibility" which she describes as the "honor of her life."
The remarks discuss the importance of their families and the preparation of their parents for a "Life of Service, Principle, Faith, and Love".
The statement pays tribute to judges with whom it has worked, including former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The reasoning of Justice Scalia "shaped me," they say.
"His legal philosophy was straightforward: a judge has to apply the law as it was written, not as the judge wants it to be."
Judge Barrett will say that it is up to the elected politicians to make "policy decisions and value judgments," not the Supreme Court justices.
"In any event, I have carefully examined the arguments put forward by the parties, discussed the issues with my colleagues in court and done my utmost to achieve the result required by law, regardless of my own preferences," she will say.
What were the opening exchanges?
The chairman of the committee, Lindsey Graham, described Ms. Barrett as "in a category of excellence the country should be proud of".
Top Democrat Dianne Feinstein defended the health reforms passed under President Barack Obama, saying the appointment of Ms. Barrett could jeopardize access to health for millions.
"Put simply, I don't think we should be pushing this nomination," she said, calling for the hearings to be postponed until after the election.
Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy said Republicans had announced plans to occupy Ginsberg's seat "just an hour after her death was announced."
"From that moment on, the process was nothing but shameful. Worse still, it will almost certainly have disastrous consequences for Americans."
Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley predicted the Democrats would "make unsubstantiated claims and scare tactics" in order to smear the candidate and "completely demean her religious beliefs."
Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse called her nomination "a judicial torpedo" aimed at removing the protection of sick Americans amid a pandemic.
What about coronavirus concerns?
The hearing room has been prepared in consultation with health officials to ensure social distancing rules are followed.
Two Republican senators on the committee, Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, recently tested positive. Mr. Lee attended the Senate hearing in person on Monday, but Mr. Tillis said he would attend remotely on the first day.
The White House hosted the Covid Superspreader event.
Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate known as one of the toughest questioners in the Chamber, is televising from her Senate office.
Judge Barrett and her family members present wore masks as the Senators took turns reading their opening addresses.
What is the verification process?
After the hearing is over, each committee member can request an additional week before the formal vote. It is not clear whether members will be able to vote remotely.
After that, the Senate - the upper chamber of the US Congress - will vote to approve or reject Judge Barrett's nomination.
Republicans already appear to have the 51 votes required to endorse Judge Barrett.
Judge Barrett worked for the late Judge Antonin Scalia
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a confirmatory vote before the presidential election.
Aside from one surprise, the Democrats appear to have few procedural options to keep them from sliding through the Senate to the Supreme Court bench.
Why is Judge Barrett's nomination so controversial?
Since Ginsburg's death of cancer on September 18, Republican senators have been charged with hypocrisy for promoting a Supreme Court nomination during an election year.
In 2016, McConnell refused to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, Democratic President Barack Obama's candidate for the court.
The nomination, which came 237 days before the election, was successfully blocked as Republicans held the Senate, arguing that the decision should be made outside of an election year.
This time, Mr. McConnell praised Judge Barrett's nomination.
Democrats say Republicans should stand by their previous position and let the voters decide. Republicans counter that the Democrats have also changed their stance since 2016.
Mr Biden has referred to Mr Trump's efforts to appoint a judiciary as an "abuse of power".
He has so far refused to comment on whether the Democrats would try to add seats - called "court wrapping" - to the Supreme Court if he won the presidential election.
Fight for the Supreme Court
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