/Live updates: Amy Coney Barretts Supreme Court confirmation hearings kick off

Live updates: Amy Coney Barretts Supreme Court confirmation hearings kick off

Grassley defends Barrett’s legal background, calls Democratic attacks ‘outrageous’

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, defended Barrett’s credentials and legal background in his opening statement. 

“A good judge understands it’s not the court’s place to rewrite the law as it sees fit. It’s not his or her place to let policy, personal or moral principles dictate an outcome of a case,” he said. 

He called it “outrageous” that Democrats are suggesting Barrett’s confirmation would lead to the demise of the Affordable Care Act and protections for pre-existing conditions. “As a mother of seven, Judge Barrett clearly understands the importance of health care,” he said. 

“The nominee should offer no forecast, no hints of how he or she will vote, because that’s the role of a judge. That’s the place of a judge in our system of government: unbiased, fiercely independent, faithful to the rule of law and a steadfast defender of the Constitution,” he said.

‘The stakes are extraordinarily high’: Feinstein says she wants Barrett to clarify her position on Obamacare

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said in her opening statement that she hopes Barrett will clarify her position on the Affordable Care Act during the hearings. 

“The stakes are extraordinarily high for the American people,” as millions could lose their health care coverage, Feinstein said. Democrats plan to focus on what could happen to Obamacare if Barrett is confirmed since the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a case to strike down the health care law in a few weeks on Nov. 10, she said. 

“The president has promised to appoint justices who will vote to dismantle that law,” Feinstein said. 

Feinstein said she hopes Barrett clarifies her stance on the ACA since she was critical of Chief Justice John Roberts’ previous 5-4 opinion upholding the law. 

Graham on timing of Barrett confirmation: ‘There’s nothing unconstitutional about this’

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., made the case in his opening statement for the Senate to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

He pointed out that the late Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although ideological opposites, were both confirmed overwhelmingly to their seats by the Senate. 

“I don’t know what happened between then and now,” said Graham, who said there was once a time when someone like Ginsburg was seen by almost everyone as qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, despite having a different philosophy than many Republicans who voted for her.  

Graham touted Barrett’s credentials, saying that she is in “a category of excellence.”

He acknowledged that no Supreme Court justice has been confirmed in an election year past July, but he said Ginsburg was asked about the timing issue several years ago and she said a president serves for four years, not three. 

“There’s nothing unconstitutional about this,” he said. 

Sen. Mike Lee, who recently tested positive for Covid-19, attends the hearing in person

Sen. Mike Lee., R-Utah, arrives for the confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 2020.Win McNamee / AP

After it was unclear whether Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would participate in the hearing in person on Monday, the senator arrived just before 9 a.m. ET, wearing a face mask. 

“I feel great,” Lee said as he entered the room. 

Lee, who said earlier this month that he tested positive for Covid-19 on Oct. 1, did not respond when asked if he was tested Monday.

Schumer outlines Democrats’ strategy for Barrett hearing Monday

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee plan to focus on two things Monday: how Barrett could overturn the Affordable Care Act and what he said was the hypocrisy of Republicans for confirming a Supreme Court nominee right before an election. 

“We’re going to focus on the issues, whether it be women’s reproductive rights, the rights of labor, climate change, and above all of health care,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We’re going to show the American people how damaging this nominee, who said proudly, I guess, that she would follow Antonin Scalia, whose philosophy would turn the clock back 100 years.”

Democrats, he said, plan to tell stories of people from their own states or other states to show how Supreme Court decisions could affect Americans’ lives. 

Regarding speculation that Democrats would expand the Supreme Court if they win the presidency and take back the Senate, Schumer said he doesn’t want to discuss that scenario now, but said “everything will be on the table” if that happens. 

Witness table set for Barrett

The witness table is set for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 2020.Alex Edelman / Pool via Getty Images

Several senators in both parties expected to participate virtually because of Covid-19

Several senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee are planning to attend the Barrett hearings virtually because they have either tested positive for Covid-19 or they are concerned they could be infected by others. 

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who recently tested positive for Covid-19, remains in quarantine and will appear virtually at least for the first day Monday. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tested positive for the disease recently and his office said his doctor would tell him Monday morning whether it would be safe for him to attend in person. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has tested negative for Covid-19, but remains in isolation because of his contact with an infected person, and would appear virtually on Monday. 

Most of the other Republicans are expected to appear in person. 

As for Democrats on the committee, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee, plans to attend virtually from her Senate office because of concerns about the lack of safety precautions. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will appear virtually because he’s nervous the GOP chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, wasn’t tested ahead of the hearings. 

Some Democrats will appear in person and it was unclear whether others also planned to participate remotely. 

Barrett to tell senators that courts are ‘not designed to solve every problem’

Barrett will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday that serving on the Supreme Court “was not a position I had sought out, and I thought carefully before accepting,” according to a copy of her opening statement obtained by NBC News.

Barrett does not mention her conservatism or her religious views in the four-page statement, and will instead tell senators that courts are “not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”

“Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society,” Barrett will say, after discussing her experience clerking for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Read more about this week’s hearings and see her full opening statement.

The stakes are high in the Senate this week

The stakes are high for both sides during Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings this week.

Barrett’s confirmation would cement conservative control of the nation’s highest court, giving them a 6-3 advantage. At 48-years-old, Barrett would become the youngest member of the court and would potentially be able to serve for decades.

A devout Catholic, Barrett has the backing of evangelicals who consider her a likely vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. Democrats have said she’s also likely to side against the Affordable Care Act. The high court is scheduled to hear that case on Nov. 10th.

Republicans don’t have much margin for error. Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have said they wouldn’t vote for any nominee given the proximity to the presidential election.

That leaves Republicans with 51 votes — just enough to confirm Barrett, barring defections or illness. If there’s a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence could break it.

Read more on what to expect from this week’s hearings.

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