GOP, Dems draw battle lines at Barrett hearing

BARRETT: "I am honored and humbled to appear before you today..."

Americans on Monday got their first real introduction to Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick to fill the vacancy created by the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on the first of several days of Senate confirmation hearings.

BARRETT: "I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg's seat but no one will ever take her place."

The Republicans in control of the Senate Judiciary Committee started off on the defensive, as the risk of COVID-19 hung over Monday's opening proceedings.

HARRIS: "The decision to hold this hearing now is reckless..."

Senator Kamala Harris, a Judiciary committee member and the vice presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket, said the hearing should have been postponed just as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had done with other Senate business, after a spate of coronavirus infections among at least three Republican senators, one of whom appeared mask-less at Monday's hearing.

HARRIS: "Senate Republicans have made it crystal clear that rushing a Supreme Court nomination is more important than helping and supporting the American people who are suffering from a deadly pandemic and a devastating economic crisis.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee's Republican chairman, insisted that enough had been done to protect attendees.

GRAHAM: "...CDC compliant and we'll move forward."

Monday's hearing was the first major indoor event on Capitol Hill since the packed White House ceremony for Barrett's nomination, which the nation's top infectious disease expert called a superspreader event.

BARRETT: "I believe in power of prayer."

Republicans sought to put Democrats on the defensive, portraying them as attacking Barrett on religious grounds.

HAWLEY: "The pattern and practice of bigotry from members of this committee must stop."

But the Democrats on the committee steered clear bringing up Barret's faith.

The conservative appellate court judge's seemingly inevitable confirmation would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority that could roll back abortion rights, expand religious and gun rights, and -in the short term - overturn Obamacare.

Democrats also emphasized what they saw as glaring hypocrisy for holding Barrett's confirmation hearings just three weeks before the Nov. 3 election, after Republicans refused to consider a nominee from President Barack Obama some 10 months before the 2016 election.

The hearings will turn more confrontational Tuesday when the question and answer portion begins.