Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett returns to Capitol Hill for a third day of confirmation hearings as senators dig deeper into the conservative judge’s outlook on abortion, health care, and a potentially disputed presidential election.
Her nomination by President Donald Trump to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has ground other legislative business to a halt as Republicans excited by the prospect of locking in a 6-3 conservative court majority race to confirm her over Democratic objections before election day.
“We’re going to fill this vacancy,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee chair, after a nearly 12-hour session on Tuesday.
Barrett’s nomination has been the focus at a Capitol mostly shut down by COVID-19 protocols, frustrating Democrats who are virtually powerless to stop a judge from confirmation. They warn she will be seated on the court in time to cast a vote to undo the Affordable Care Act next month, causing millions of Americans to lose coverage during a pandemic.
“People are fed up,” said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, criticizing Republican priorities in forcing the Senate action as the country suffers from the pandemic and Congress squabbles over approving additional economic aid.
The 48-year-old appellate court judge declared her conservative views in often colloquial language, but she refused many specifics Tuesday. She aligns with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative mentor, and declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases involving Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Trump seemed pleased with her performance. “I think Amy’s doing incredibly well,” he said at the White House departing for a campaign rally.
WATCH l Democrats worry about fate of abortion law:
Barrett testified she has not spoken to Trump or his team about election cases. Pressed by Democrats, she skipped past questions about ensuring the date of the election or preventing voter intimidation, both set in federal law, and the peaceful transfer of presidential power. She declined to commit to recusing herself from any post-election cases without first consulting the other justices.
Barrett later declined to characterize the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion as a “super-precedent” that must not be overturned.
“Let’s not make any mistake about it,” said California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, appearing at the confirmation hearing remotely due to COVID-19 concerns.
Allowing Trump to fill the seat with Barrett “poses a threat to safe and legal abortion in our country,” Harris said.
Not just another Scalia
The Senate, led by Trump’s Republican allies, is pushing Barrett’s nomination to a quick vote before the Nov. 3 election, and ahead of the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court is to hear a week after the election. Democrats warn that she would be a vote to undo the law familiarly known as Obamacare.
“I’m not hostile to the ACA,” Barrett told the senators.
WATCH: Barrett says she’s not out to target health care law:
The judge, accompanied by her family, described herself as taking a conservative, originalist approach to the Constitution. A former law professor, she told the senators that while she admires Scalia, she would bring her own approach.
“You would not be getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett,” she declared.
Overall, Barrett’s conservative views are at odds with the late Ginsburg, a liberal icon. She would be Trump’s third justice, following Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Underscoring the Republicans’ confidence, Graham set an initial committee vote on the nomination for Thursday, the last day of hearings, which would allow final approval by the full Senate by the end of the month.
Before that, outside witnesses both for and against the nomination of Barrett will give testimony on Thursday.