One Issue Expected to Dominate at Barrett Hearings

Democrats worried about health care and the fate of the Affordable Care Act
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2020 6:47 AM CDT
One Issue Expected to Dominate at Barrett Hearings
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Her confirmation hearings begin Monday.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File)

(Newser) – The confirmation hearings Democrats have tried to stall and Republicans have arranged with lightning speed begin Monday on Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee opens its hearings into Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, with much of the focus from Democrats expected to be on health care. Coverage:

  • The process: Monday is all about opening statements, including from Barrett and senators. The grilling begins Tuesday and is expected to last through Thursday, reports Fox News. (Barrett is expected to echo her mentor, the late Antonin Scalia, in saying that the court should not try to make policy.)
  • Firsts: This is the first time such hearings have been held during a pandemic (two GOP members of the panel have tested positive but will participate) and the first time they've happened even as early voting for the presidency is taking place around the country, per NPR. The story notes that Barrett is well aware of the stakes. Less than a week before the 2016 election, she warned that a Hillary Clinton win had "the potential to flip the balance on the court." Scalia's seat was vacant at the time.

  • Kamala Harris: The VP candidate, who has criticized panel chairman Lindsey Graham's COVID protocols, will participate remotely, reports Politico. An op-ed in the New York Times makes the case that Democrats should yield most of their time to Harris, perhaps their best questioner. "Voters deserve a Senate hearing where a person aspiring to one of the nation’s highest elected offices gets an opportunity to hold to account an unelected judge nominated for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court," writes Cristian Farias.
  • Religion: Specific queries about Barrett's faith and her membership in a charismatic Christian religious group are expected to be off the table. This will "pose a challenge for Democrats as they try to probe her judicial approach to abortion, gay marriage, and other social issues without veering into inappropriate questions of her faith," per the AP.
  • The key issue: Democrats are expected to focus much of their attention on Barrett's views about the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, reports the Washington Post. She has been critical of the health care law, and an important case is on the docket for November. "She could well be the deciding vote in this latest attempt by the Trump administration to get the court to strike down the law in its entirety," per NPR.
  • The votes: Barring an unexpected turn, such as more senators testing positive, Republicans have the votes to confirm. Only two GOP senators have voiced objections to holding the hearings before the election, which means Mitch McConnell can still afford one more unexpected defection, notes Fox.
(Read more Amy Coney Barrett stories.)

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