Democrats focus on health care in US Supreme Court nominee hearing
Washington, Oct. 13, (dpa/GNA) – Democrats put a sharp focus on health care on the opening day of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Amy Coney Barret for the US Supreme Court.
The move on Monday appeared design to rouse public opinion against the judge and the Republicans who are pushing to get her seated on the court in a swift process that they aim to conclude before the November election.
Democrats lack the numbers in the Senate to stop the lifetime nomination to the nine-member court, but have been using the process to galvanize voters.
Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy on the top court, would replace former justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon of liberals, who died last month after a battle with cancer.
She would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority, if confirmed, though the court’s rulings are often not along strict ideological lines.
Republicans used their time to praise Barrett’s « judicial temperament » as well as her conservative-leaning philosophy, with many positively noting her private religious convictions.
Chuck Grassley, a senior Republican, argued it was « outrageous » to suggest Barrett would harm health care protections.
However, one Democratic lawmaker after the other alleged that Barrett, would rule to strip away protections for patients.
They held up giant placards with photos of patients and their families, trying to paint faces on the sometimes abstract ideas of the Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare.
« Health care coverage for millions of Americans is at stake with this nomination, » said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republicans are waging legal battles against Obamacare, and a Supreme Court ruling is due just after the election.
« We can’t afford to go back to those days when Americans could be denied coverage or charged exorbitant amounts, » Feinstein said.
Democrats are opposed to the Republican effort to appoint Barrett weeks before the election, still stinging from 2016, when Republicans successfully blocked Democratic president Barack Obama from appointing a judge to the top court in an election year.
« This process has been nothing but shameful, » said Patrick Leahy, a senior Democrat and former chairman of the judicial committee.
Barrett adheres openly to an originalist philosophy which states that courts should never make policy, as laws are the responsibility of senators and representatives in Congress.
« Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society, » Barrett will say, according to prepared remarks. « But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. »
Democrats are trying to be careful and tiptoe around religious issues. When Barrett last appeared the Senate to be confirmed as a federal judge, she was hit hard over her conservative Catholic beliefs.
When Feinstein opined to Barrett that « the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern, » conservatives seized on the remark to accuse the country’s leftists of having an anti-religious bent. The quote ended up on t-shirts of Barrett supporters.
The judge is the mother of seven children, including two who were adopted from Haiti.
The last Supreme Court confirmation hearing took place ahead of the 2018 mid-term election and turned into a contentious affair as Brett Kavanaugh was accused of having sexually assaulted a woman when they were teenagers.
The allegation became the focus of the hearing and the accuser even testified to the Senate, amid Democratic pressure. Republicans saw the move as an attempt to smear Kavanaugh, who firmly denied the charges and was ultimately confirmed as a justice on the court.
Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, committee chairman Lindsey Graham said the hearings will run through Thursday before the committee votes on October 22, sending her nomination to the entire Senate.
Graham said a vote before the 100-member Senate will likely take place « no later » than October 27, a week before the election.
Barrett’s nomination has stirred talk on the left of packing the Supreme Court – a term which means to add judges – if the Democrats sweep the November election, gaining not only the White House, but also a majority in the Senate, while keeping control of the House.
Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden has repeatedly declined to say if he supports court packing, dodging questions from reporters whenever the issue comes up.