The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court kicked off Monday morning with a plea for civility by Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham while Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein vowed that Democrats would question Barrett on her stance on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“This is going to be a long contentious week,” Graham said in his opening statement. “Let’s make it respectful, let’s make it challenging, let’s remember the world is watching.”
Graham was likely referencing the 2018 confirmation hearings of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which were marred by constant interruptions, lurid sexual assault accusations and bombastic behavior from senators.
“I believe we want this to be a very good hearing,” Feinstein said in response, saying that she would do her best to make the hearing civil, as Graham asked.
But, Feinstein said, Democrats plan to grill Barrett on how she would rule on California v. Texas, a constitutional challenge to the ACA that is set to be argued before the Supreme Court on Nov. 10. Republicans aim to confirm Barrett before the end of October.
“We will examine the consequences,” of Barrett’s potential rulings, Feinstein said, adding that “the president has promised to appoint justices who will vote to dismantle that law.”
“This well could mean that if Judge Barrett is confirmed, Americans stand to lose the benefits that the ACA provides,” Feinstein continued. “More than 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions .. could be denied coverage or charged more to obtain health insurance.”
Graham, in his opening statement, extolled Barrett’s qualities as he defended Republicans’ move to confirm Barrett just weeks ahead of a presidential election.
“In my view, the person appearing before this committee is in a category of excellence,” Graham said, “the country should be proud of.”
He added that Barrett “academically, she’s very gifted,” citing her educational exploits and time as a professor at the law school at Notre Dame. Graham also emphasized Barrett’s commitment to being an unbiased judge and highlighted her family of nine children.
The hearing promises to be highly contentious all the way through. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Sunday called the Barrett confirmation effort “illegitimate, dangerous and unpopular.” He called on Barrett to recuse herself from any Supreme Court cases involving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the presidential election.
Republicans, however, have said that they plan to advance Barrett out of the Judiciary Committee by Oct. 22 and confirm her by the end of the month. But Schumer, potentially indicating a handful of weeks to come full of procedural roadblocks to gum up the confirmation effort, swore that Democrats will not “provide quorum” for any committee votes on Barrett, which would almost certainly force Republicans to change the committee’s rules to get Barrett’s nomination to the floor.
The hearing is also happening as every other aspect of the Senate is closed down in the middle of a pandemic that is currently infecting three Republican senators, including two on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is one of those senators and is present in the hearing room Monday. Graham as he opened the hearing said that Lee has been cleared by his physician. Sen. Thom Tillis. R-N.C., said previously he would attend the first three days of hearings virtually. Tillis also previosuly tested positive for the virus.