Graham, Harris share spotlight as Barrett hearings begin
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Republicans swear swift endorsement for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court candidate as the party - undeterred by coronavirus infections or other distractions - conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett ahead of the Nov. 3 election wants to bring before the Supreme Court.
The process begins on Monday with hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearings are likely a mix of face-to-face interviews and some video participation after three GOP senators - including two on the committee - infected the virus.
The GOP-led panel held more than 20 hearings during the pandemic as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues his quest to uphold Conservative judges. The hearings all had a combination of face-to-face and remote consultation.
Some outside groups have urged Democratic Senators to boycott the Barrett Hearings to protest the accelerated verification process and to remind voters of the Republicans' refusal to consider President Barack Obama's Supreme Court candidate in 2016 , but these requests were ignored. Still, some Democrats have refused to meet with Barrett, and the hearings are likely to be controversial, if not as explosive as the hearings two years ago, to consider Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed.
Democrats cannot block Trump's election alone, arguing that Barrett's approval would jeopardize the protection of the Affordable Care Act - a focus that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden embraced and that many Democrats see as a message of success. Immediately after the election, the court will hear a case questioning the constitutionality of Obama's health bill, adding to the urgency of the matter.
Conservative groups have pushed hard for Barrett's endorsement and are expected to spend more than $ 10 million raising support for her and pressure senators to swiftly approve Trump's third candidate for the Supreme Court.
Senators should watch the four day hearings begin at the Capitol Complex:
SENATE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.
Graham will be in the national spotlight at the helm of a process that will include days of televised hearings. A position that he said could benefit his own political position. Graham is in a tight race for re-election against Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, in which record-breaking fundraising drives and allegations of hypocrisy have been brought forward.
Graham said four years ago that a candidate for justice should not be approved shortly before a presidential election, adding that if he changes his mind, voters should "use my words against me". "How good is your word?" Harrison asked during a debate last week.
Graham said Barrett "is sustained because the President has constitutional authority to do so."
He called Barrett a "buffer for liberalism" and hoped she would "not be treated like Kavanaugh". Graham's fiery defense of Kavanaugh in 2018 helped cement the Senator's close relationship with Trump and once again generated conservative support. Graham's actions have also angered liberals who are now pouring millions of dollars into Harrison's campaign and working to oust the GOP Senator.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.
As the top Democrat on the justice panel, veteran Feinstein will lead the Barrett's interrogation, though she may hand over the limelight to California Senator Kamala Harris, a committee member and party's vice-presidential candidate.
At 87, Feinstein is the oldest seated senator, and some Democrats fear she has lost some of her effectiveness as an interrogator. Feinstein continues to face criticism as a federal judge for her comments during Barrett's 2017 ratification hearing. Feinstein had joined the Republicans on the panel to ask Barrett about their Roman Catholic beliefs, but then went on to tell Barrett, then a Notre Dame law professor, “If you read your speeches, the conclusion is that dogma she lives loud in us. ''
Republicans have taken up Feinstein's question to accuse the Democrats of criticizing Barrett's beliefs - an indictment the Democrats vigorously deny.
Senate Democratic chairman Chuck Schumer said there was no "religious litmus test" for a judge, nor was there any truth about the idea that Democrats oppose justice candidates because of their religion. "Not a single Democrat will make these attacks or personal, religious convictions an issue," said Schumer.
Feinstein led the Democrats to ask Barrett to provide missing material from a questionnaire she had completed for confirmation. Barrett signed an anti-abortion-sponsored newspaper ad in 2006 speaking out against "abortion on demand" and defending "the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life".
The advertisement was not included in the materials Barrett made available to the Justice Committee. Feinstein and other Democrats asked the Justice Department to explain the omission and to confirm whether other materials were omitted.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D CALIF.
Harris, Joe Biden's deputy in the presidential election, will be in the spotlight again when Democrats question a Trump candidate for the Supreme Court. Harris, a former prosecutor and attorney general, received high marks from the Democrats for her aggressive interrogation of Kavanaugh in 2018. These hearings, in which Harris starred, drew more than 20 million viewers.
Harris plans to attend remotely from her Senate office over coronavirus reasons, her spokesman said on Sunday. Harris and other key Democrats said the hearings should not continue without plans to test those in attendance, including senators, for coronavirus.
Successful polling of Barrett could improve the Biden-Harris ticket, but missteps could hurt the Democrats' chances of winning an election they now lead in national polls. "I think there's probably more pressure on Kamala to actually get involved ... politically than ever because it's on the ticket," said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
As a sign of tightened scrutiny, Vice President Mike Pence tried to get Harris to reveal whether she and Biden support the expansion of the Supreme Court, as many Liberals advocate. Harris dodged the question in their debate, focusing instead on the Republicans' decision to move forward to fill the current position so close to an election.
SEN. JOSH HAWLEY, R-MO.
Hawley, a conservative and outspoken critic of the Roe v. Wade's Supreme Court ruling to uphold abortion law prompted GOP efforts to warn Democrats not to criticize Barrett for being Catholic.
Hawley specifically cited Feinstein's comments on Barrett's beliefs during her 2017 nomination hearing for a Chicago-based appeals court.
"I urge you and every member of the Democratic Caucus to publicly oppose Sen. Dianne Feinstein's tremendous personal attacks on Judge Barrett's Christian beliefs during her previous confirmation hearings, and to undertake to abstain from these types of anti-Catholic, anti-Christian individuals, Anti-Faith Vitriol in Coming Hearings, ”Hawley wrote in a letter to Schumer last month. "You owe it to the country."
Democrats call Hawley's comments off-base. No Democrat has criticized Barrett's religion since her nomination was announced late last month.
SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-DEL.
A longtime Biden loyalist who holds the former Senate seat of the Democratic presidential candidate, Coons was one of the first Democrats on the Justice Committee to meet with Barrett, despite the fact that he did so over the phone because of the pandemic.
Coons said he would attend the hearings in person, although other members with health concerns are likely to video-ask questions. The distant aspect "increases the likelihood that we will pass each other," said Coons, and is a major reason "we shouldn't push this partisan process."
Coons told MSNBC that he had read Barrett's opinions and legal articles, "and I am increasingly convinced she is even more conservative than (former) Justice (Antonin) Scalia, who she worked for on the Supreme Court, and she has one demonstrates willingness to reverse a longstanding precedent. ''
Voters should remember that Trump said he "urged her to have a seat before the election so that she can participate in making decisions about the election when it is highly competitive and so that she can help make that happen." Repeal Affordable Care Act. " '' Coons said.
"A vote for Judge Barrett is a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act," he said. "That is what I will try to expose in the upcoming hearings."
SENS. MIKE LEE, R-UTAH AND THOM TILLIS, R-N.C.
Lee and Tillis have both contracted the novel coronavirus and are in self-quarantine during the hearings. Both attended a rose garden ceremony on Sept. 26 in Barrett's honor, who appeared to be a major contributor to the virus.
Tillis said he expected to attend at least some of the confirmation hearings remotely, but believes he will return to the Capitol in person for an expected committee vote on October 22 on her nomination.
Tillis, like Graham, is in a tight reelection race and has pledged to support Trump's nominees even before Barrett's name was revealed. He said he had no symptoms and could attend the hearings in person later in the week. Democrats have warned that appearing in person could put other senators and staff at risk. They urge Graham to require all senators to have COVID-19 tests.
Lee, a Conservative who has praised Barrett, said he expected "to get back to work in time to work with my colleagues on her nomination."
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, D-HAWAII
Hirono, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, said she would focus on the health law and the possible consequences of a more conservative Supreme Court that is rolling back on reproductive rights or Roe v. Wade falls. In just three years on the 7th Circuit, Barrett has twice pleaded for approval of abortion restrictions that violate Supreme Court precedent, Hirono said.
"Amy Barrett has a history of anti-electoral advocacy and a proven lack of respect for precedents," Hirono said, adding that Barrett "will be brought to the Supreme Court in time for the November 10th hearing on the Affordable Care Act expects her to be among those breaking the Affordable Care Act, which leaves millions upon millions of families in the cold about healthcare. ''
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