WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are vowing a quick confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, as the party — undeterred by coronavirus infections or other distractions — rushes to put conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the high court before the Nov. 3 election.
The process starts Monday with hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearings are likely to be a hybrid of in-person questioning and some participation via video after three GOP senators — including two on the committee — contracted the virus.
The GOP-led panel has held more than 20 hearings during the pandemic as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues his drive to confirm conservative judges. The hearings have all had a combination of in-person and remote questioning.
Some outside groups have pushed for Democratic senators to boycott the Barrett hearings to protest the accelerated confirmation process and remind voters of Republicans’ refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016, but those pleas were ignored. Still, some Democrats have refused to meet with Barrett and the hearings are likely to be contentious, although not as explosive as hearings two years ago to consider Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed.
Unable to block Trump’s pick on their own, Democrats argue that Barrett’s confirmation would threaten protections of the Affordable Care Act — a focus that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has embraced and many Democrats see as a winning message. The court will hear a case challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s health care law just after the election, adding to the urgency of the issue.
Conservative groups have been pushing hard for Barrett’s confirmation and are expected to spend more than $10 million to drum up support for her and pressure senators to swiftly confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee.
Senators to watch as the four-day hearings kick off at the Capitol complex:
SENATE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.
At the helm of a process that will include days of televised hearings, Graham will be in the national spotlight, a position he has said may benefit his own political standing. Graham is locked in a tight race for reelection against Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison that has featured record-breaking fundraising and accusations of hypocrisy.
Graham said four years ago that a judicial nominee should not be approved just before a presidential election, adding that voters should “use my words against me” if he changed his mind. “How good is your word?” Harrison asked at a debate last week.
Graham said Barrett “is going to be confirmed because the president has the constitutional authority to do it.”
He called Barrett a “buffer to liberalism” and said he hoped she “won’t be treated like Kavanaugh.” Graham’s fiery 2018 defense of Kavanaugh helped cement the senator’s close relationship with Trump and generated renewed support from conservatives. Graham’s actions also riled up liberals, who are now pouring millions of dollars into Harrison’s campaign and working to oust the GOP senator.