Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee spoke by phone Wednesday to Judge Amy Coney Barrett, despite their widespread opposition to confirming her to the Supreme Court.
Barrett spoke with six Democrats on the Committee: Ranking member Dianne Feinstein of California, as well as Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Coons of Delaware, according to a White House spokesperson. Barrett spoke with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey last week.
While meetings with Supreme Court nominees are typically in person, the Senate is currently gone until Oct. 19, after three senators tested positive last week for coronavirus. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin Barrett's confirmation hearings Oct. 12.
In statements and interviews Wednesday, Senate Democrats continued to express concern about the confirmation process for Barrett and pressed the nominee on her views on the Affordable Care Act, Roe v. Wade, and other key issues.
Coons told reporters after his call with Barrett that she did not commit to recusing herself from cases related to the upcoming election. President Donald Trump has publicly suggested that the Senate needs to confirm Barrett before Nov. 3 to ensure that there are nine justices on the court, in the event of a disputed election.
“She made no commitment to recusal,” Coons said. “She went through what the factors are for recusal and said it would essentially depend on the circumstances for any judge to make any recusal decision.”
Whitehouse, meanwhile, said he spoke to Barrett in order to “plant a seed of awareness” about the influence of dark money and the impact that groups like The Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network have on the Supreme Court.
“I wanted the call because I wanted to walk her through the case of how these entities that are all around the court are funded and what it is that they seek to accomplish through the influence they are extending over the court,” Whitehouse said in an interview.
Whitehouse said that while Barrett was “polite,” his concerns about her nomination were not alleviated.
Judd Deere, a spokesperson for the White House, said, Wednesday that in her phone calls "the Judge emphasized the importance of judicial independence and spoke about her judicial philosophy and family."
Senate Democrats have called repeatedly to delay filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguing that whoever wins the Nov. 3 election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement. Democrats are accusing Republicans of hypocrisy after they refused to consider the 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland by President Barack Obama, and they also note that the Senate has never confirmed a Supreme Court justice so close to a presidential election. In addition, Democrats say that if the Senate is not safe enough to be in session, the Senate Judiciary Committee also should not convene.
But most Senate Republicans see no reason for delay and argue that history is on their side, because they control both the White House and the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday evening that the plan is for the Senate to confirm Barrett before the election. Republicans also maintain that the hearing will be conducted safely, and that senators have the option of attending remotely.
There is little Senate Democrats can do to stop Barrett’s nomination. Instead, they’ve focused their messaging on the future of Obamacare and abortion rights. In an act of protest, however, several Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have said they will not meet with Barrett because they view her confirmation process as illegitimate.
Among the Democratic senators who have met or spoken with Barrett is Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. But he, too, left the meeting expressing concern about her and about Senate Republicans' push to confirm her quickly.
In a statement last week, Manchin said, “Despite her impressive background and credentials, Judge Barrett offered no contrast to her prior views and writings about the Affordable Care Act which continue to give me serious concerns if she were to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.” Manchin added that he continues to “oppose this process.”
Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.