VOTE 20

“A Sham,” “A Charade": Dem Senators Slam SCOTUS Hearings As Most Americans Oppose Filling Seat Before Election

Despite multiple polls showing that a majority of registered voters think the next president should get to appoint the Supreme Court Justice to fill the late RBG’s seat, Republicans are pressing forward with a hasty nomination process that many are calling “illegitimate.”

Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. With less than a month until the presidential election, President Donald Trump tapped Amy Coney Barrett to be his third Supreme Court nominee in just four years. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)
Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. With less than a month until the presidential election, President Donald Trump tapped Amy Coney Barrett to be his third Supreme Court nominee in just four years. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Senate Republicans are moving forward with hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, even as a majority of Americans say they oppose starting the Senate confirmation process before the 2020 election is over.

Some 9.6 million ballots have already been cast in the presidential election, according to the U.S. Elections Project

In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 52% of registered voters said the decision on filling the Supreme Court seat left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be left to the winner of the presidential election and the Senate next year. The poll found that 44% of voters said the Senate should hold the hearings and vote on Barrett’s nomination. Another Post/ABC poll conducted in late September, taken before President Trump announced his nomination of Barrett, found that 57% of Americans supported leaving the decision to the next president.

Despite this, Senate Republicans are conducting a full-court press on moving Barrett’s nomination forward, hoping to further secure a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court. The process is also in direct contradiction to what many GOP senators said four years ago when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court in March 2016. Republicans said then that it was too close to the election to allow Obama to do so, and refused to even hold hearings on his nomination to consider it. Many also refused to even meet with Garland.

Senate Judiciary Democrats Slam Colleagues For Pushing SCOTUS Nomination Forward: "This Is Not Normal"

On the first day of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, Democratic senators took their colleagues to task for their hypocrisy, as well as the risk of holding in-person hearings now at all given that some of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, delivered a statement virtually. She noted: “This hearing has brought together more than 50 people to sit inside a closed-door room for hours, while our nation is facing a deadly airborne virus. This committee has ignored common-sense requests to keep people safe, including not requiring testing for all members despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators of this very committee.”

Among those present at the Monday hearing was GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah who said he tested positive for COVID-19 just ten days prior, and has been showing some symptoms of the virus. While attending Monday’s hearing in-person, Lee insisted he felt “great,” and even spoke without his mask on for minutes at a time. He also would not answer questions about whether he has received a negative COVID-19 test yet.

Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has also been exposed to COVID-19 in recent weeks, but has refused to take any tests. A debate between Graham and his Senate race opponent Jaime Harrison was canceled over the weekend because of Graham’s refusal to take a test; several journalists observed that this was likely so he could move forward with the Barrett hearings Monday, uninterrupted.

Sen. Harris pointed out in her statement that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put the Senate in recess because of the COVID-19 outbreak, postponing other floor business, but has allowed the Judiciary hearings to continue for political reasons. She also said that the legislative body “should be prioritizing coronavirus relief and providing financial support” to families suffering economically during the pandemic right now.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is also on the committee, used his opening statement time Monday morning to highlight the fact that Senate staff and people elsewhere who are at risk because of COVID-19 do not have access to the same health care that sitting GOP senators have.

“There’s nothing about this that’s normal,” Booker said in his passionate in-person speech. “It’s not normal that Senate Republicans are rushing through a confirmation hearing, violating their own words, their own statements, betraying the trust of the American people and their colleagues … all to ensure that tens of millions of people will lose their health care when we’re seven months into one of the worst public health crises in the history of our country.”

“It’s not normal and we should not normalize it,” he said to close out his remarks. “The American people should decide.”

Another Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), agreed and said she thinks “this hearing is a sham.”

Can Senate Democrats do anything to stop or slow the SCOTUS nominating process?

In a press conference Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said when Barrett’s nomination is voted on by the Judiciary committee, Democrats plan to deny Republicans a quorum—which would slow down the process. He said they would similarly conduct a “procedural last-ditch effort to slow her confirmation” when it comes to a full floor vote (the timeline for that is still to be determined, but Republicans are set on moving quickly this month).

HuffPost reporters wrote that “Republicans can simply change the rules and advance the nomination ― as they are expected to ― but Democrats say such a move would only highlight the unprecedented nature of her appointment.” 

Activists say the best bet is public protest and organizing

In an opinion piece for NBC News published Monday, Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton adviser Zac Petkanas wrote, “The only thing that can stop Barrett's nomination now is if we make a vote to confirm her so toxic that senators worry about dooming the Republican Party if they go through with it.”

“There's no argument that's going to be persuasive enough to shame Senate Republicans to look within themselves and do the right thing,” Petkanas wrote, adding that what Democrats and voters can do is use “strict message discipline focused on the issue that will hurt [Barrett’s] chances the most: the fact that she will likely be the deciding vote on the Supreme Court in the case to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic that has already killed more than 210,000 people in the United States.”

Democratic senators were clearly focusing on that message at day one of the hearings.

Dozens of protesters held a sit-in Monday in front of a Senate office building as well as the Supreme Court building to demonstrate their opposition against the hearings. Because of the ongoing pandemic, members of the public are not allowed into the hearings this year.

Women’s March organizers are currently coordinating mass nationwide protests for October 17 in opposition to Barrett’s nomination and as a call to action for women everywhere to vote.