Senior congressional Democrats on Sunday warned that Senate Republicans would pay a price for rushing to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before Election Day.
President Donald Trump formally announced Barrett’s nomination to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday. Her confirmation hearing, which will last three to four days, will begin Oct. 12, setting the stage for a possible floor vote ahead of Election Day.
“The election is, what, 37 days from now?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The next election, and the senators have to remember this, the next election is 38 days from now.”
If Senate Republicans vote to confirm Barrett, all but assuring that Obamacare and its protections for people with preexisting conditions are overturned, Pelosi warned, “They will be seeing elections that look exactly like 2018 over and over again.”
Though Senate Republicans narrowly expanded their majority that year, Democrats won back the House in a wave election that netted them 41 seats, a wipeout that Pelosi predicts will strike the Senate GOP. Thirty-four Senate seats will be on the ballot in 2022, including at least 20 held by Republicans. (Candidates who win special elections in Arizona and Georgia this fall will be up for reelection in the 2022 midterms.)
A majority of voters say the winner of the November presidential election should fill the Supreme Court seat, according to a national New York Times/Siena College poll. That trend is also true in battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin, and a majority of voters in Georgia and North Carolina say the vacancy makes this election more important.
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, focused on health care on Sunday afternoon in brief remarks on the upcoming Supreme Court fight, casting Barrett as the death knell for the Affordable Care Act and pleading with Senate Republicans to follow the precedent they set in 2016 when they refused to give President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing because it was a presidential election year.
“Just because you have the power to do something doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility to do right by the American people,” Biden said.
Biden gave only a passing reference to abortion in discussing the protections of Roe v. Wade as he listed a variety of rights that could be overturned. He cautioned Republicans that if they move forward on the nomination, “they should see to it that the American public will vote on the Senate races in this election, and they’ll vote Republicans out of office. That’s the consequence.”
Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), citing what he called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) “destruction and denigration” of the Senate, reiterated that “the conversation about the future of the Senate rules is on the table, and I’m part of it.”
Progressives have called on Senate Democrats to end the legislative filibuster if they win the majority and expand the number of Supreme Court justices to level the playing field. Durbin conceded that with only two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, opposed to the process, “we can slow it down — perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most — but we can’t stop the outcome.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would “put forth a pretty aggressive schedule for hearings and markups.”
“If all goes well, then certainly a vote on the floor sometime before the election” is likely, Meadows said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But that’s gonna be up to Leader McConnell and the team and making sure that all of the senators are well-informed of the judge’s credentials, which are impeccable, but we’re optimistic that we’ll be prepared. We’ll start delivering the information to the senators tomorrow, and then we’ll be on Capitol Hill as early as Tuesday.”
Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) argued that no Supreme Court justice had ever been confirmed between July and November of a presidential election year.
“Never,” Stabenow stressed on “Fox News Sunday.” “Either party. Never happened.” (Justice William Brennan joined the court in October 1956 as a recess appointment, but had to face a confirmation vote in 1957 to remain on the court.)
Nevertheless, Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-La.) maintained that the Constitution’s “provisions about filling a Supreme Court vacancy are unaffected by the electoral calendar,” and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Barrett would be confirmed to the high court “next month.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) added on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “If for some reason it’s not done, we’ll do it after Election Day. But I think we’re likely to get this done sometime in the month of October.”
Senate Democrats are unanimously opposed to voting on a nominee before voters determine who will be sworn in as president in January. But unlike some of their colleagues, Durbin, Manchin and Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) expressed a willingness to meet with Barrett.
Durbin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that he had met with every Supreme Court nominee since he became a senator and would “extend that courtesy” to Barrett “if she requests it.” He also said he would be present for next month’s confirmation hearing to “ask her point-blank … whether or not her position is that we should end the Affordable Care Act.”
Manchin similarly noted that he has never refused a meeting with a Supreme Court nominee.
“My state of West Virginia is right in the crosshairs right now when you look at the Affordable Care Act,” Manchin said, adding that he would have to explain to his constituents why their preexisting conditions will no longer be covered and that they won’t even be able to buy health insurance.
Coons said he would “press her on her previous statements about the Affordable Care Act” in an in-person meeting or by phone, and Booker said he planned to ask Barrett whether she would recuse herself from election issues that come before the court.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) insisted the Affordable Care Act and its patient protections had long been unconstitutional.
“That fact that Congress chose to enact an unconstitutional law shouldn’t tarnish Judge Barrett in this,” he said on “This Week.” “Her job is to figure out whether it’s unconstitutional or not. I don’t believe it is.”
Stabenow lamented how clear it is that Barrett “will be the vote that takes away health care for millions of Americans, including 130 million people and counting people with preexisting conditions.” The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on a case involving the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10, just one week after Election Day.
“Instead of dealing with what’s right in front of people right now that is causing them real pressure,” Stabenow said, “what we have is a rush to judgment to put somebody on the court that’s gonna take away people’s health care. I just don’t get it.”
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.