WASHINGTON – Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation hearings finished Thursday, concluding four days of hearings as Republicans map out a clear path to placing her on the high court before Election Day.
Over the week, senators peppered Barrett with questions about her judicial philosophy and views on abortion, voting rights, the Affordable Care Act and global warming, controversial issues that could come before the court. Barrett dodged answering many inquiries that dealt with contentious issues – frustrating Democratic senators hoping to derail her confirmation – while vowing to keep an open mind on any issue that comes before the Supreme Court.
Throughout Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard personal and emotional testimony from some of Barrett's former colleagues and advocates who could be affected by Barrett's confirmation to the high court.
Barrett's confirmation requires approval by majorities of the committee and the full Senate, both of which are controlled by Republicans.
The panel will meet once more – Thursday, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. EDT – to officially vote on Barrett's confirmation. After the committee approves her nomination, which is likely to pass in a 12-10 party-line vote, the full Senate will consider her.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the chamber will bring up her nomination on Oct. 23, leaving a final vote on her confirmation likely to happen the week of Oct. 26, the week before the Nov. 3 election.
Thursday's hearing started off contentious, with Democratic senators attempting to halt the hearings, an effort squashed by the Republican majority. Democrats again slammed the proceedings for being rushed in the middle of a presidential election and global pandemic, repeating the Democratic stance that the next president should choose the justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high court. Republicans vowed to move ahead on President Donald Trump's nominee.
Despite the early drama, moods were more measured later in the day. Senators on both sides thanked one another for their conduct as the proceedings ended.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, thanked Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for his "fairness" during the hearings and praised the process.
"This has been one of the best Senate hearings I have ever participated in," she said at the conclusion of Thursday's hearing.
Graham said "that means a lot to me" and called Feinstein a "joy to work with."
"I don't think anybody crossed the line with the judge in terms of trying to demean her as a person," Graham said of conduct during the hearings, thanking senators on both sides.
– Christal Hayes
Senators hear personal stories about Barrett's dedication, the potential impacts of her decisions
After hearing from the American Bar Association about Judge Amy Coney Barrett's qualifications for the Supreme Court, senators heard testimony from some of Barrett's former colleagues and advocates who shed light on what her confirmation could mean to the future of health care.
The testimonies come on the fourth and final day of Barrett's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vote Oct. 22 on her nomination.
Members of the panel shared personal stories about Barrett's dedication and emotional anecdotes from stakeholders on the importance of the Affordable Care Act, voting rights and a woman's right to an abortion.
Barrett’s former law clerk Amanda Rauh-Bieri described her former boss as “a sharp legal mind” and a “brilliant thinker.”
“Judge Barrett is dedicated and disciplined and as a judge, she is committed above all else to the rule of law,” she told senators. “As she has said, and as I have seen, Judge Barret understands that policy decisions must be left to the political branches. The role of the judge is to enforce the law as written.”
Rauh-Bieri added that Barrett "would be a role model for generations to come.”
But witnesses testifying on behalf of Democrats painted a different portrait of Barrett, highlighting all the laws and protections that could be in danger should she be confirmed and allow the court a 6-3 conservative lean.
Stacy Staggs, a mother to two 7-year-old twins who were born premature, told the panel that she relies on the Affordable Care Act for protections for her children. "A vote for Judge Barrett is a vote to take away health care” and strike down “the law that saved the lives of my daughters," she said.
Dr. Farhan Bhatti, medical director of Care Free Medical clinic in Michigan, also testified about the importance of the health care law, telling senators that "any judge who opposes the ACA endangers a lifeline that my patients count on to stay healthy.”
The Supreme Court will take up a challenge to the Obama-era health care law in November. Democrats fear a conservative majority could undo the provision.
– Christal Hayes, Sean Rossman and Rich Wolf
27 arrested outside Amy Coney Barrett's hearing
The United States Capitol Police said 27 people were arrested outside of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing Thursday.
Twenty-six people were charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” a street or public building, and one was charged with “resisting arrest.”
Video posted by a reporter showed protesters sitting down in the middle of the road as law enforcement made arrests.
Several Democratic senators spoke to the protesters during a break in Thursday’s proceedings. The protesters, mostly members of progressive groups like MoveOn and Demand Justice, held signs saying “Save Roe” and “No confirmation without inauguration.”
“We’ve got to turn fear into fight,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told the group. “It’s time to mobilize.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also went outside to speak with the protesters.
– Nicholas Wu
Committee shoots down Democratic attempt to halt Barrett nomination
The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a party-line 10-12 vote, shot down a Democratic attempt to stop Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination from moving forward Thursday.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the process a "sham" and demanded it be "indefinitely" postponed during the fourth and final day of confirmation hearings.
"In your hearts, you know that what's happening here is not right. It's not normal," Blumenthal said in a plea to Republicans on the panel. "The real people eventually will judge us. History will haunt this raw exercise of political power."
Democrats have complained that Barrett's nomination is being rushed through in order to confirm her to the high court before Election Day – when both the Senate majority and White House are up for grabs.
"We do grave damage to the Supreme Court by politicizing it in this way," Blumenthal said.
– Christal Hayes
Klobuchar: Amy Coney Barrett confirmation process 'motivating more people to vote'
Democrats grasped for a silver lining Thursday as Republicans pushed the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett – and they found one in the upcoming election.
“It’s motivating more people to vote,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said.
More than 15 million people have voted already, with three weeks to go before Election Day. Based on that trend, more than half of the votes cast in the election may come before Nov. 3.
The trend favors Democrats, which could work against President Donald Trump and in favor of former vice president Joe Biden. It also could affect key Senate races – possibly including the tough reelection race that Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, finds himself in.
Graham didn’t mention his own race, but he acknowledged the problems faced by the president.
“Y’all have a good chance of winning the White House,” he told his Democratic colleagues.
– Richard Wolf
McConnell says 'we have the votes' to confirm Barrett, tees up final confirmation for week before election
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday “we have the votes” to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
The full Senate would start to consider her nomination on Oct. 23, he said, a day after the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on her nomination, which would move the final confirmation vote to the full Senate.
McConnell's pledge to bring Barrett's nomination forward one day after she is likely to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee means the soonest the full Senate could vote to confirm her would be Oct. 26, eight days before Election Day.
"We'll go to the floor with her on Friday, the 23rd and stay on it until we finish this," McConnell said, adding "We have the votes."
Oct. 23 is the first day McConnell can put Barrett's nomination on the calendar for the Senate, teeing up several days for debate before the chamber can vote.
He said he had been watching the hearings "very closely.”
-Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes
Democrats call proceedings a 'sham' as Republicans vow to press forward
The fourth and final day of confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett started with a testy exchange between Republicans and Democrats over the future of the Supreme Court nominee's possible ascension to the high court.
Democrats hammered Republicans for pressing forward on Barrett's confirmation just weeks before Election Day.
“This is a sham process,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said pushing Barrett’s nomination through would “breach the etiquette of the committee.”
"I recognize our Democratic friends wish there was a Democratic majority in the Senate. But the voters decided otherwise," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said. "This committee moving forward is consistent with over 200 years of history and precedent."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., criticized Barrett for not answering questions Wednesday on whether she thought climate change was caused by humans, saying “I would be afraid to ask her about the presence of gravity on Earth because it may come up in a case.”
"Anyone who has doubts on climate change is weird in your world,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., countered.
Democrats acknowledge they do not have the votes to block the nomination. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told reporters on a conference call earlier Thursday, "unless two Republicans get a conscience," Barrett will be confirmed.
– Nicholas Wu
Committee sets vote on Amy Coney Barrett for Oct. 22
Democrats tried to halt Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination from moving forward Thursday, the fourth and final day of confirmation hearings for the appeals judge.
But Democrats failed to delay the confirmation process as the committee scheduled its vote on the judge for Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. EDT.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was the only Democrat in the room as the hearing got underway and cited a committee rule that at least two Democratic members of the panel had to be present to conduct business, an attempt to halt the hearings that was blocked by Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Graham said the committee would hold Barrett's nomination for one week, a typical practice by the panel, and vote on her nomination next Thursday. Another Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., then called for Barrett's nomination process to be postponed indefinitely.
"I believe that this rushed, sham process is a disservice to our committee," Blumenthal said.
– Christal Hayes
Sen. Kamala Harris to attend campaign events in NC, will not be in DC for hearing
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will not be in Washington, D.C., for the final day of confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Harris, also the Democratic vice presidential nominee, is scheduled to attend campaign events in Asheville and Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday as character witnesses and legal experts testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Harris spokesperson Chris Harris said the senator would be following the proceedings from North Carolina but not asking questions.
Harris had participated virtually from her Senate office in Washington, D.C., throughout the week of confirmation hearings, citing concerns about safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Final day of hearings won't feature Amy Coney Barrett
WASHINGTON – The final day of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination hearings to the Supreme Court won't feature her.
Instead, the Senate Judiciary Committee — the panel charged with vetting judicial nominees — will hear from a host of experts, character witnesses who are likely to praise Barrett and what is sure to be emotional testimony from Americans who could be impacted should the high court strike down controversial laws, such as those protecting abortion or the nation's healthcare system.
Before hearing from the witnesses, the committee is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. ET to debate Barrett's nomination — a process that might be contentious and could potentially include various procedural motions and that could lengthen the process.
The Wednesday evening disclosure by CNN of additional talks Barrett gave at the University of Notre Dame, including one to an antiabortion group, prompted one Senate Democrat to call for the nomination to delayed because the talks were not reported in her Senate paperwork
"That is alone reason to delay that markup tomorrow," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters Wednesday evening, calling the new disclosures "absolutely dynamite."
Blumenthal noted, "we have no evidence that she is intentionally concealing or hiding" the talks.
The hearing Thursday will follow two days of senators peppering Barrett with questions over a host of controversial issues — notably the Affordable Care Act, guns, abortion and voting rights. Barrett largely refused to weigh in on issues that could come before the high court, leaving Democrats pointing to her past rulings and writings and the conservative sway she could have on the court and the federal appeals judge striving to show her independence from Republicans and the White House.
After debating her nomination, the committee is set to hear from two panels. The first will feature two members of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which evaluates the qualifications of every judicial nominee: Randall D. Noel of Butler Snow, LLP and Pamela J. Roberts of Bowman and Brooke LLP.
The second panel will include Democratic and Republican witnesses who are likely to speak on Barrett’s character or in opposition to her confirmation:
Dr. Farhan Bhatti, CEO and medical director of Care Free Medical. Bhatti will discuss the Affordable Care Act
Retired Judge Thomas Griffith of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who has praised Barrett.
Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Clarke will testify about voting and civil rights.
Professor Saikrishna Prakash of the University of Virginia School of Law, one of Barrett’s professional colleagues
Crystal Good, who fought in court for an abortion at age 16 and who will testify about abortion rights.
Amanda Rauh-Bieri, associate at Miller Canfield, and a former clerk for Barrett.
Stacy Staggs will testify about the consequences of overturning the Affordable Care Act.
Laura Wolk, an attorney and one of Barrett’s former law students.
All the witnesses, some of whom are appearing virtually, and senators will have five minutes to offer opening statements. Senators will have five minutes to question the witnesses during each panel.
Who is Amy Coney Barrett?: Talented judge, popular professor brings solid conservative credentials
After the committee hears from the witnesses, senators will hold Barrett's nomination for one week, a common practice. The panel is expected to vote around Oct. 22, in a vote that will likely split along party lines, 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
After the vote, the full Senate will take up her nomination. She will need at least a majority of the 100-member chamber to be confirmed to the high court, a feat she is expected to cross as Democrats have acknowledged they lack the votes to block her confirmation before Election Day.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Coney Barrett: McConnell says 'we have the votes' to confirm judge