What to watch for when Kamala Harris questions Amy Coney Barrett at her nomination hearing this week
WASHINGTON - Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for Vice President, has a unique opportunity to question President Donald Trump's nominee in the Supreme Court when Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing begins Monday.
Everything about the nomination is controversial. Democrats claim the job created by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on September 18 should remain open until after the November 3 elections so that voters can help decide who will fill the seat. Republicans insist it needs to be filled quickly.
Barrett, a conservative lawyer, would follow one of the most liberal in Ginsburg. If confirmed, Barrett could resolve contestations in the conduct of the elections and a case attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is slated for oral disputes on November 10th.
Justice Committee Democrats have already requested more information from Barrett about her background, particularly the Supreme Court precedent establishing the right to abortion. But Republicans have criticized Harris for interviewing other candidates, including Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and accusing Democrats of anti-Catholic biases that could offend Barrett.
For Harris, her dual role as committee member and national candidate has the potential benefits of advancing her own priorities, but also the risk of becoming a target for political attack.
"It's an opportunity for Sen. Harris to show off their stuff," said Joel Goldstein, vice president and law professor emeritus at St. Louis University. "It will really present an interesting dynamic in a way that could almost be a second debate for them."
During the hearing, there are a few things to keep in mind about Harris:
The speed at which the seat is filled
President Donald Trump said it was his right to occupy the seat after Ginsburg's death on September 18, and he appointed Barrett on September 26. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Expects the Senate to vote on Barrett's confirmation meanwhile October.
"We're making very fast progress," said Trump on September 27th.
But Harris, along with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, criticized the Republicans' rush to occupy the Supreme Court seat.
The seat of the late Attorney General Antonin Scalia remained open for more than a year as Senate Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama's candidate, Judge Merrick Garland, in election year 2016.
Democrats have argued that whoever wins the election should name Ginsburg's successor.
“We are literally in an election. Over 4 million people voted. People are in the process of voting, ”Harris said during the Vice Presidential debate on Wednesday. "Let the American people take this seat in the White House, and then we'll take this seat in the United States Supreme Court."
GOP concerns about expanding the court
Republicans have questioned whether Biden will try to increase the number of seats in the court to prevent a Conservative majority.
"If you haven't figured it out, the straight answer is, you will grab the Supreme Court," said Vice President Mike Pence at the debate.
Biden and Harris have repeatedly refused to answer questions about whether they would try to expand the court. Biden told reporters Thursday that he would detail his plans for the court after the election.
Regarding the term "court packaging," Harris said in the debate that none of the 50 judges Trump nominated to federal appeals courts were black.
"They did," said Harris, whose parents immigrated from Jamaica and India. “You want to talk about packing a dish? Let's have this discussion. "
Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Harris responds to Vice President Mike Pence during debate at the University of Utah.
The hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Harris, a former San Francisco District Attorney and Attorney General of California, won the national spotlight at the 2018 Senate Confirmation Hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually assaulting her as a teenager - allegations he has vigorously denied.
Harris' barbecue of Kavanaugh stays fresh in the minds of Republicans. Trump beat up Harris on August 11 for questioning Kavanaugh.
"I thought she was the meanest, the most terrible and the most disrespectful in the US Senate," Trump told reporters during a briefing at the White House.
Supreme Court nominee Justice Brett Kavanaugh testifies before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was appointed Supreme Court Assistant Justice on September 27, 2018. President Donald J. Trump's nominee for Assistant Justice Brett Kavanaugh is in a tumultuous verification process as several women have alleged Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
Linda Greene, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said she expected Harris to focus on Obamacare's constitutionality because Barrett has argued that Chief Justice John Roberts "pushed the affordable care bill beyond its plausible meaning to save the law ".
Greene said Harris could also ask Barrett to respect previous Supreme Court decisions under a doctrine called "stare decisionis" to uphold previous decisions, such as decisions affirming Obamacare and reproductive decisions for women. Barrett wrote that "the following precedents can sometimes be illegal," Greene said.
"I expect Senator Harris to focus on issues that are understandable to the general public and are also important to the Biden Harris campaign," Greene said.
In her letter to Barrett, the Justice Democrats asked for more information on a letter she signed in 2006 "which opposed women's reproductive freedoms and specifically called for the overthrow of Roe v. Wade".
Harris told reporters on Sept. 28 that she was committed to upholding the Affordable Care Act set out in Roe v. Wade laid down law going to focus on abortion and workers' rights.
"There's a lot at stake when we look at the Supreme Court," said Harris.
"I'm going to be very focused on whether there will be a trial to review this lawsuit that Donald Trump filed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act for trying to get rid of everything Barack Obama created," Harris said.
“I will answer Roe v. Wade and whether there is a precedent and a woman's right to make decisions about her own body, with her family, with her God, with her doctor, ”Harris added.
On workplace issues, Harris said she would ask to continue to advocate the integrity of the laws protecting collective bargaining and the right to equal pay for equal work.
Trump promoted regulation reduction in his first term. And Pence said Trump stood for the sanctity of human life.
“I am for life. I do not apologize for this, ”Pence said during the debate. "And this is another case where there is such a dramatic contrast."
Vice-Presidential Debate: Kamala Harris and Mike Pence quarrel over health care
Allegations of anti-Catholic bias
Republicans have accused Democrats, including Harris, of anti-Catholic bias and warned that doing so could harm Barrett's affirmation. But Harris denied hitting anyone for their belief.
Part of the allegations stem from written questions Harris put to District Court candidate Brian Buescher in December 2018 about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic group.
"Did you know the Knights of Columbus rejected a woman's right to vote when you joined the organization?" Harris asked on a question. "Did you know that the Knights of Columbus opposed marriage equality when you joined the organization?" she asked in another.
Pence said in the debate that Harris attacked the candidate because of the group's pro-life views.
"We will not advocate attacks against Judge Barrett's beliefs," Trump said on October 1 in a reception for the non-profit Al Smith Memorial Dinner. "Anti-Catholic bigotry has absolutely no place in the United States."
But Harris replied to the debate that she and Biden are both people of faith.
"It is insulting to say that we would beat anyone for their beliefs," said Harris. In fact, if Joe is elected, he will only be the second practicing Catholic to serve as President of the United States. "
Another part of the allegation arose from Barrett's 2017 confirmation hearing before the federal appeals court. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Asked what role religion would play in court.
“I think whatever a religion is it has its own dogma. The law is completely different, ”said Feinstein. "And I think in your case, Professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives out loud within you."
Barrett said she would separate her personal views from her judgment.
"If you ask if I take my faith seriously and am a devoted Catholic, I am," Barrett told the senators. "Although I would like to emphasize that my personal church affiliation or my religious beliefs would not affect the performance of my duties as a judge."
Polls show a closer-than-expected race between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden in South Carolina, where Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (left) is also running for re-election.
Republicans could criticize Harris
The Republicans on the committee include several who face their own re-election efforts, including Lindsay Graham from South Carolina, Thom Tillis from North Carolina, and Joni Ernst from Iowa.
These senators could tangle with Harris to bolster their own political positions, Goldstein said. Others like Ted Cruz from Texas, Josh Hawley from Missouri, John Kennedy from Louisiana and Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee could take a trick against Harris, Goldstein said.
"Some of them are not among the warmest and fuzzy members of the Senate," Goldstein said. "I think they will use the hearing to score points against them."
Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Told Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News October 4th that Harris revealed "what a terrible politician she is" at the Kavanaugh hearings.
"I expect she will launch the same attacks as in the past," said Cotton.
Contributor: Maureen Groppe
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Kamala Harris to interrogate Supreme Court Candidate Amy Coney Barrett
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