Senate panel to vote next week on Barrett’s nomination
WASHINGTON — Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination cleared a key hurdle Thursday as Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans powered past Democrats’ objections in the drive to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick before the Nov. 3 election.
The panel set Oct. 22 for its vote to recommend Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate for a final vote by month’s end.
“A sham,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. “Not normal,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
“You don’t convene a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, in the middle of a pandemic, when the Senate’s on recess, when voting has already started in the presidential election in a majority of states,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said.
But Republicans countered that Trump is well within bounds as president to fill the vacancy, and the GOP-held Senate has the votes to push Trump’s nominee to confirmation.
Sen. John Cornyn, RTexas, said the Democrats’ “loss is the American people’s gain.”
Barrett’s confirmation to take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is poised to lock a conservative majority on the court for years to come. The shift would cement a 6-3 court in the most pronounced i deological change in 30 years, from the liberal icon to the conservative appeals court judge.
The committee’s session Thursday was without Barrett after two days of public testimony in which she stressed that she would be her own judge and sought to create distance between herself and past positions critical of abortion, the Affordable Care Act and other issues.
Instead, outside witnesses testified, including representatives of the American Bar Association’s standing committee that gave Barrett its highest “well qualified” rating — but not unanimously. Barrett is the first high court nominee since Justice Clarence Thomas not to earn a unanimous rating.
Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights opposing Barrett’s nomination, said the judge’s unwillingness t o speak forcefully for the Voting Rights Act should “sound an alarm” for Americans with a case heading to the high court.
But retired appellate court Judge Thomas Griffith assured Barrett is among justices who “can and do put aside party and politics.”
Facing almost 20 hours of questions from senators, Barrett was careful not to take on the president who nominated her.
Barrett, 48, skipped past Democrats’ questions about ensuring the date of next month’s election or preventing voter intimidation, and the peaceful transfer of presidential power. She also refused to express her view on whether the president can pardon himself.
When it came to major issues that are likely to come before the court, including abortion and health care, Barrett repeatedly promised to keep an open mind and said neither Trump nor anyone else in the White House had tried to influence her views.
Barrett testified she has not spoken to Trump or his team about election cases, and declined to commit to recusing herself from any post-election cases.
In 2000, the court’s decision in Bush v. Gore brought a Florida recount to a halt, effectively deciding the election in George W. Bush’s favor. Barrett had a minor role on Bush’s legal team in 2000.