Senators settle old grudges as Barrett confirmation hearing starts
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday opened a formal case to try Amy Coney Barrett before the Supreme Court in an effort by the Senators to resolve old issues about Republicans' decision to move forward with their nomination in an election year.
While lawmakers spoke directly to Barrett, she may not have been present either. Senators on both sides of the aisle largely recognized the inevitability of Barrett's affirmation - even if they partisanly harassed one another during their opening speech.
"Unless something really dramatic happens, all Republicans will vote yes and all Democrats will vote no," said Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), chairman of the judiciary committee, although he acknowledged that "this will be a long, controversial week. "
With the presidential election less than a month away, the Democrats have shown a unified front in the four-day roster of hearings, drawing attention to the Trump administration's efforts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and Senate Republican hypocrisy in the Trying to retrial Barrett, 48, in the Supreme Court so close to the election. In 2016, Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama's candidate for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, at the time saying it was because the post opened during an election year when the Senate and White House were controlled by different parties were.
"Eighty minutes after we heard of Justice Ginsburg's death, McConnell signaled that he would fill the position," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. "When they blocked Merrick Garland, we kept hearing about the importance of the elections."
Democrats accuse Republicans of attempting to occupy the seat in time so that the Supreme Court can hear the government's challenge to the 2010 Health Bill just a week after election day, and President Donald Trump has said he wanted his judicial officers decide against Obamacare. Healthcare is coming to the fore as Americans are already in the elections.
Graham acknowledged that one election year after voting began, the Senate upheld a Supreme Court judiciary - an obvious reference to criticism from the Democrats - but said the committee was conducting the process "constitutionally".
Democrats said the entire process was unlawful, claiming Republicans broke their word about validating Supreme Court candidates in an election year. In their opening speeches, the Democrats focused more on the Senate majority leaders, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) And Trump. They paid little attention to Barrett's qualifications or her record as a federal judge on the 7th Court of Appeals.
“Votes are held in 40 countries. Senate Republicans are pushing full force ahead to consolidate a court that will advance their policies, "said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee's senior Democrat.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) complained that the Democrats were drawing attention to policy goals instead of focusing on Barrett's qualifications, saying the Democrats' priorities were wrong.
As the session continued on Monday, Trump intervened via Twitter and accused the Democrats of making "selfish statements". He appeared to be urging the Senate Republican leaders to abolish the hearings altogether and proceed with a confirmatory vote.
The first day of opening hearings from Senators and Barrett takes place less than two weeks after two GOP committee members, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.), test positive for Covid -19 and two others were forced into quarantine.
As a result, some senators did not attend Monday's session in person but opted to remotely deliver their opening statements, including Tillis. However, Lee attended the hearing. His office released a letter from the Congressional doctor on Monday saying the Utah Republican "met criteria to end COVID-19 isolation for people with mild to moderate illnesses."
Before the hearing, a group of Democrats called on Graham to call for coronavirus testing for all senators, citing the recent outbreak. Graham declined these calls, citing instructions from the Capitol's attending physician's office.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Barrett will answer questions from Senators on a variety of topics. Outside witnesses will testify about Barrett on Thursday, and the committee will vote on her nomination next week. Republican leaders aim to hold a final confirmatory vote in the Senate the week before the election.
The Senate Republicans suggested in their opening speeches that the Democrats wanted to attack Barrett for her Catholic beliefs. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested that "some of my colleagues may try again to demean Judge Barrett's religious beliefs and allegiances".
Meanwhile, in front of Barrett, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he was still concerned about "some of the previous attacks on your belief" and said "Democrats on and off the committee want a real fight."
So far, however, the Democrats have stayed away from Barrett's religion.
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