SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.
As top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, the veteran Feinstein will lead questioning of Barrett, although she may cede the spotlight to fellow California Sen. Kamala Harris, a committee member and the party’s vice presidential nominee.
At 87, Feinstein is the oldest sitting senator, and some Democrats worry she may have lost some of her effectiveness as a questioner. Feinstein still faces criticism for her comments during Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing to be a federal judge. Feinstein had joined Republicans on the panel in asking Barrett about her Roman Catholic faith, but then went further by telling Barrett, then a Notre Dame law professor, that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.”
Republicans have seized on Feinstein’s question to accuse Democrats of criticizing Barrett’s faith — a charge Democrats vigorously deny.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there’s no “religious litmus test” for a judge, nor any truth to the idea that Democrats oppose judicial candidates because of their religion. “Not a single Democrat will make these attacks or make personal, religious beliefs an issue,” Schumer said.
Feinstein led Democrats in calling on Barrett to provide any missing materials from a questionnaire she completed for her confirmation. Barrett signed a 2006 newspaper ad sponsored by an anti-abortion group in which she said she opposed “abortion on demand” and defended “the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life.”
The ad was not included in materials Barrett provided to the Judiciary panel. Feinstein and other Democrats asked the Justice Department to explain the omission and confirm whether other materials were left out.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIF.
Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate in the presidential election, will again be in the spotlight as Democrats question a Trump nominee for the Supreme Court. Harris, a former prosecutor and state attorney general, earned high marks from Democrats for her aggressive questioning of Kavanaugh in 2018. Those hearings, at which Harris played a starring role, drew more than 20 million viewers.
Harris plans to participate remotely from her Senate office due to coronavirus concerns, her spokesman said Sunday. Harris and other key Democrats said the hearings should not move forward without plans to test people attending, including senators, for coronavirus.
Successful questioning of Barrett could boost the Biden-Harris ticket, but missteps could risk harming Democrats’ chances of winning an election they now lead in national polls. “I think there’s probably more pressure on Kamala to actually engage … in a political way than ever before just because of the fact that she’s on the ticket” with Biden, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said.