With the Senate Judiciary Committee poised to confirm Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Sen. Richard Blumenthal made a last-ditch effort Thursday to indefinitely postpone the confirmation, raising concerns about materials which Barrett had failed to disclose to the Senate, as well as Republican senators' attempt to secure her seat on the nation’s highest court before Election Day.
Barrett is required to disclose all public talks given in her professional career as part of the confirmation process. But CNN reported Wednesday evening that Barrett had failed to disclose seven events she participated in at the University of Notre Dame’s law school, including a talk with a campus anti-abortion group. Barrett had also previously failed to disclose two “right to life” documents she had signed onto. (Barrett told the committee she had supplied over 1,800 pages of documents to the Senate and that previous nominees have provided supplemental disclosures.)
“That was one of the reasons, but only one of the reasons, why I indicated that the vote on her nomination should be delayed indefinitely,” Blumenthal said Thursday. “One other reason was, we’re still in the midst of hearings. Literally, we were voting to move the nomination forward even before the hearings today began.”
Blumenthal’s motion to indefinitely delay the confirmation failed in a vote along party lines. A committee vote on Barrett’s nomination is scheduled for Oct. 22 and is almost certain to pass the Republican-led body. The full Senate could convene to vote on Barrett’s nomination as soon as the following week, days before Nov. 3.
“It should be the next Senate and the next president who pick the next Supreme Court justice because the American people should have a say. They should have a voice," Blumenthal said. “Right now, we’re in the midst of considering this nomination when people are already voting. People in Connecticut are voting.”
Supreme Court nominees have become notoriously reticent during nomination hearings in recent decades, but Blumenthal said he was particularly disturbed by Barrett’s unwillingness to answer questions on legal issues involving abortion, marriage rights, climate change, health care and election law. Barrett, a conservative appellate court judge, describes herself as an originalist, meaning she aims to interpret the Constitution as it was understood at the time of its creation.
During a strained exchange with Blumenthal Wednesday, Barrett said that Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that the racial segregation of public school children was unconstitutional and Loving v. Virginia, which ruled that state laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional, were correctly decided. But she declined to state her legal position on a slew of other cases, including Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled that the government cannot prohibit gay and lesbian relationships, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which upheld marriage equality.
“Senator Blumenthal, every time you ask me a question about whether a case was correctly decided or not, I cannot answer that question because I cannot suggest agreement or disagreement with precedents of the Supreme Court,” Barrett said when pressed by the Connecticut senator.
“Think of how you would feel as a gay or lesbian American to hear that you can’t answer whether the government can make it a crime for them to have that relationship, whether the government can enable people who are happily married to continue that relationship,” Blumenthal responded.
Blumenthal noted that the Senate needs only two dissenting votes to stop the nomination. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, though two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have indicated they will not support Barrett’s nomination due to concerns about how close her nomination is to the presidential election.
“If some of my Republican colleagues hear, with enough heat, from their constituents, if the American people stand up and speak out, we could still win it," Blumenthal said. "We did in the health care debate, when famously, [late Arizona Senator] John McCain cast the decisive ‘no' vote. He was responding to the American people. That’s our hope. It’s our last, best hope.”
Eliza Fawcett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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