Judge Amy Coney Barrett Faces First Day Of Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

Update (0900ET): As Monday's hearing begins, here's a list of the senators to look out for, amid reports that Sen Mike Lee will be attending the hearing in person despite his recent COVID-19 diagnosis, text courtesy of Bloomberg.

Lindsey Graham:

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham has gone from being a Donald Trump critic to one of the president’s closest allies in Congress. In the role of Judiciary chairman, he is championing Trump’s nomination of Barrett and has set an ambitious schedule to get her through the confirmation process before the Nov. 3 election. The hearings may help bolster his standing with the party’s conservative base, which has been wary of Graham in the past because of his support for issues like immigration reform. Barrett’s confirmation would solidify a conservative majority on the court. That’s particularly important for Graham, 65, who is suddenly facing a serious challenge in his campaign to win a fourth term on Nov. 3. Recent polls in the state have him tied with Democrat Jamie Harrison. The non-partisan Cook Political Report recently moved the race to the toss-up category, and Harrison raised a record $57 million in the third quarter. Graham was fiery in his defense of Trump’s last court nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and he likely won’t hold back if Democrats go after Barrett.

Kamala Harris:

The stakes are high for California Democrat Kamala Harris, who is on the November ballot as her party’s vice presidential candidate. Republicans and the Trump campaign will be scrutinizing her every question and gesture to use against her and presidential nominee Joe Biden. The former prosecutor is known for her pointed questioning, and she was one of the most aggressive interrogators during the Kavanaugh hearings. But the dynamic will be different this time. Democrats have almost no hope of blocking Barrett, so they are looking to make points with voters on the issues at stake in the election. The future of the Affordable Care Act, the subject of a case that will be heard by the Supreme Court shortly after the election, will be at the top of the Democrats’ agenda, as will Barrett’s stance on abortion rights. In pursuing those topics, particularly abortion, Harris, 55, will have to ask tough questions that the Democratic base wants to hear while keeping in mind potential swing voters who’ll be watching to see how Barrett is treated. Harris joined the Senate in 2017 and is the most junior member of the committee. That means she likely will be the last questioner as senators take their turns.

Dianne Feinsten:

Should Democrats pick up enough seats on Nov. 3 to assume control of the Senate, California’s Dianne Feinstein would be in line to become the Judiciary panel’s next chair. Democrats as well as Republicans will be watching Feinstein’s performance. Progressives in her party have grumbled that Feinstein’s tendency to seek bipartisan consensus doesn’t reflect the current political atmosphere. For example, she has said she wouldn’t support ending the filibuster, the Senate rule that lets the minority party block legislation. Getting rid of that rule is a goal of the party’s left wing. Feinstein, 87, drew harsh criticism from Republicans for how she handled Barrett’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit in 2017. Feinstein questioned whether Barrett’s Catholic faith would unduly influence her rulings, at one point telling Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

Thom Tillis:

Thom Tillis of North Carolina is one of the two Republican senators on the committee to have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a White House Rose Garden event where Trump introduced Barrett as his nominee; the other is Mike Lee of Utah. Tillis has been in self-isolation and has said he would participate at the start of the hearings remotely. But he said he’ll be back at the Capitol in time to cast a vote to advance Barrett’s nomination. He has a lot riding on the hearings, which will put him in the national spotlight at the same time he, like Graham, is facing a tough fight for re-election. The North Carolina Senate seat is one that Democrats have targeted in their drive to retake control of the Senate. Tillis has been narrowly trailing Democrat Cal Cunningham in most polls. But the Covid diagnosis and a scandal over Cunningham sending romantic texts to a woman not his wife have jolted the race. The hearings provide an opportunity for Tillis to rev up the state’s Republican base.

Joni Ernst:

Joni Ernst also is among the roughly 10 incumbent Republicans considered vulnerable in the November election with her home state of Iowa becoming a battleground for control of both the Senate and the White House. Ernst, 50, is in her first term but quickly bound herself to Trump and became part of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership team. She was the only incumbent GOP senator running for re-election to speak at the Republican National Convention. That’s given her a high national profile, which may also be a handicap back home. Her approval rating in the state has dropped along with Trump’s, and polls show Democrat Theresa Greenfield, a 56-year-old real estate executive contesting a statewide office for the first time, with a slight lead. The Supreme Court has been a top issue for Ernst. At the hearings for Barrett, she’s looking to solidify and motivate Republicans by taking the fight to Democrats over Trump’s nominee.

Ted Cruz:

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, 49, was the runner-up to Trump in 2016 and is likely to try again. Known for his sharp and partisan attacks on opponents, Cruz will have a national platform to keep his profile high among Republicans, and he is unlikely to shy away from using it.

Ben Sasse:

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has made a reputation for independence from Trump, a potential benefit if Trump is defeated in November. The hearings will allow Sasse, 48, to show his conservative credentials to a much wider swath of GOP voters.

Josh Hawley:

Likewise, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, 40, will be able to reach a bigger audience with the hearings and make his case to conservatives. While some Republicans may be treading lightly on the issue of abortion, Hawley took to the Senate floor a few months ago to declare he would only vote for Supreme Court nominees who he is confident would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationally.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing to kick off the first of four days of hearings involving President Trump's SCOTUS nominee, Federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Barrett's opening statement leaked to the Washington Post and other media outlets on Sunday. In it, she cited the legal philosophy of Antonin Scalia as the inspiration for her own views, which highlights a judge's duty to apply the law as written, not as they wish it were.

The hearing will begin at 0900ET, in the Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is the chairman of the committee and will preside.

Barring some kind of major bombshell, Judge Barrett's confirmation just days before the election is virtually assured. Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have warned that the GOP is rushing to install Barrett before a critical post-election day ruling on Obamacare which, Dems say, could strip health insurance from 20 million Americans.

Interested parties can watch the hearing live below:

Dems on the Judiciary panel say they’ll employ various delaying tactics to try and take a stand that could hurt several GOP senators in the upcoming election, but unless a few Republicans turn against her, they can’t stop the schedule set by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, or keep Barrett off the court.

Republicans see Barrett's nomination as a chance to cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court, potentially for decades.

As far as issues go, here's John Solomon with a summary of issues that might come up during the hearing.

Ideological split of the court

If Barrett is confirmed, conservatives will enjoy a firm 6-3 advantage over the liberals on the court. And that has sarked talk on the left of “packing” the court with justice is Democrats take control of the Washington in the November election.

Obamacare

The high court is slated to hear arguments on Nov. 10 on several GOP states’ efforts to invalidate the Affordable Health Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care policy. Barrett could be on the bench in time to join the arguments, and some Democrats are already sounding out pleas that she recused herself from that decision.

Barrett’s faith

The last time Barrett faced confirmation three years ago for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, she faced harsh questioning about her Roman Catholic faith. Right after her Supreme Court nomination, liberals in the media resumed the attacks with stories about groups she belonged to. But key Democrats, including Sen. Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have said in recent days faith should be off the table during the confirmation hearings.

Abortion

As evidenced by questions at last week’s vice presidential debate, the issue of the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion across America looms large in this confirmation hearing. Barrett has been unapologetically pro-life in her personal life but insists her personal views won’t have any bearing on her rulings. On the 7th Circuit, she handled one major abortion case in 2018 when the appeals court struck down an Indiana law, signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence, that would have outlawed abortions based on the race, sex or disability of the fetus. Barrett joined in the dissent, arguing the law should have been withheld.

Gun Rights

Democrats want stricter gun laws and the National Rifle Association are fighting hard to stop any efforts to chip away at 2nd Amendment freedoms, making the issue likely to come up during the hearings. Last year on the 7th circuit, Barrett penned a dissent in a case involving bans on guns ownership by non-violent felons. She wrote the government had failed "to show that disarming all nonviolent felons substantially advances its interest in keeping the public safe. … The Second Amendment confers an individual right, intimately connected with the natural right of self defense, and not limited to civic participation."

Immigration

This perennial hot button issue is likely to get some attention during questioning, especially because Barrett’s 7th Circuit colleagues just made news in June with a major immigration ruling that blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the "public charge" rule allows immigration officials to deny green cards to immigrants who use welfare. Barrett dissented from her colleagues, arguing the Trump administration rule is a “reasonable interpretation of the statutory term 'public charge.' I respectfully dissent."

(Source: Just the News):

Read ACB's opening statement below:

Barrett Statement by Zerohedge