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Barrett nomination sent to Senate as Democrats boycott vote

Updated October 22, 2020 - 3:12 pm

WASHINGTON — Republicans brushed aside a boycott by Democrats Thursday and advanced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the full Senate for a vote on confirmation.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee did not appear for a panel vote, placing instead in their seats cardboard cutouts of photographs depicting people who would lose coverage if the Affordable Care Act is struck down by the Supreme Court.

The tactic did nothing to deter Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who ordered a roll call vote and advanced the Barrett nomination and a recommendation of confirmation to the full Senate, 12-0.

“We are not going to allow them to take over the committee,” Graham said. “They made a choice not to participate.”

Senate Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said debate on the confirmation would begin Friday with a final vote coming as soon as Monday.

President Donald Trump promised during campaign rallies and public events to nominate judges to the Supreme Court who would abolish the ACA, known as Obamacare, and overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision.

Trump nominated Barrett, 48, a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge and Notre Dame law professor, to the vacancy created when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September.

Ginsburg was known as a fierce advocate for women’s and civil rights and anchored the liberal wing of the Supreme Court.

Barrett was one of many conservative judges vetted by The Federalist Society and appeared on a list compiled and issued by Trump before the vacancy occurred. She was a former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia and told the Judiciary Committee that he was a mentor to her legal career.

Graham hailed Barrett, during the confirmation hearing last week, as the first unashamed “pro-life” judge to sit on the Supreme Court.

‘Well qualified’ judge

The American Bar Association rated Barrett as “well qualified,” the group’s highest rating, to sit on the court.

Republicans are rushing to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 presidential election, where polls show Democrats poised to win back the White House and possibly the Senate majority.

Democrats have protested the rushed process, noting that Republicans failed to give appellate Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by President Barack Obama, a hearing or a vote in 2016.

But without the votes to block the Barrett nomination, Democrats focused on Barrett’s positions on abortion rights and most notably the ACA, where she criticized an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2012 that upheld the constitutionality of the law.

Barrett’s confirmation would give conservatives a solid majority, with three justices on the nine-member court nominated by Trump.

“All along, Democrats have objected to proceedings on the nomination in the middle of an election,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee. “Forty million Americans have already voted, and we’re just 12 days away from Election Day. That’s why we boycotted today’s committee vote,” she said.

Other Democrats cited Barrett’s legal writing to claim she would vote to strike down the ACA, denying health care for millions of Americans.

Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats, have said they would oppose Barrett’s confirmation due to her position on the ACA, among other issues.

“Millions of Americans rely on the Affordable Care Act for access to quality, affordable health care,” Rosen said in a tweet. “We must protect it.”

Republicans denounce ACA

Graham said the ACA has caused private insurance costs to increase, and federal benefits to be unequally distributed to more populous states.

“The ACA has failed and our Democratic colleagues have recognized that,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. He said Democrats were now pushing a single-payer health care system to replace the ACA.

A lawsuit seeking to repeal the act is pending before the Supreme Court, with arguments scheduled for Nov. 10.

Barrett told the committee that despite previous writings, she would be open minded in hearing and weighing all arguments in the case.

The judge declined to answer repeated questions by Democrats on issues such as abortion rights, presidential powers and the role of the Supreme Court in deciding election disputes that could arise from the 2020 presidential vote.

During the hearing, Barrett told the committee she has “no agenda.”

Protesters flocked to the Capitol and Senate buildings during the hearing and on Monday, with arrests made by Capitol Police.

But the demonstrations were in no way comparable to the influx of angry mobs that jammed the steps of the Supreme Court building during the hearing and vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh two years ago.

Liberal lawmakers such as Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., have suggested that a newly elected Democrat in the White House and a Senate majority of Democrats could expanded the number of seats on the Supreme Court and appoint liberal justices to counter the tilt to the right.

Republicans have denounced that as “court packing,” and note that a such a change would force the Senate to eliminate the legislative filibuster. Both parties have eliminated the filibuster for judicial appointments, allowing confirmation with a simple majority.

Biden has repeatedly dodged the question of whether he would support such a move if elected, and has suggested a possible commission to study judicial reforms.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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