Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Amy Coney Barrett, is set to face senators' questions over her stance on health care, legal precedent and possibly issues pertaining to the presidential election during the second day of confirmation hearings, sceduled to last through Thursday, reports AP.
The Republicans have been hoping to confirm Barrett before the presidential and congressional elections on 3 November, seeking to cement a 6-3 advantage in the nation's highest court. They also hope to seat Barrett in time to hear any legal challenges after the election, as the Supreme Court may have to decide the 3 November outcome amid fears of voter fraud due to mail-in ballots.
Another important timing factor is the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a week after the election.
Barrett is to be grilled in 30-minute segments by Democrats who have been gravely opposed to President Donald Trump's choice, arguing that the winner of the presidential election should choose the nominee.
“This should not be President Trump's judge… This should be your judge," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Day One of the hearings in the Republican-controlled Senate on Monday saw Barrett outline her approach to the law as “conservative and fair”.
“Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,’ declared the 48-year-old federal appeals court judge, adding that Americans “deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written”.
In a demonstration of reverence for the legacy of liberal icon Ginsburg, many Democrats on Monday wore lapel pins with her likeness.
Barrett also had words of praise for her late predecessor, saying she was 'forever grateful' for Ginsburg's “trailblazing path” as a woman on the Supreme Court.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's running mate Senator Kamala Harris slammed Barrett's nomination as potentially throwing into jeopardy everything Ginsburg had been committed to uphold.
As she testified, Harris said that the court is 'often the last refuge for equal justice' and that not only health care but voting rights, workers´ rights, abortion rights and the very idea of justice are at stake.
Nevertheless, despite protests from the Democrats, Barrett’s path to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court looks clear of hurdles, as Republicans would appear to have the votes required to seal her confirmation.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee chairman, who set an initial committee vote on the nomination for 15 October, was quoted as telling journalists that Barrett was a “slam dunk” based on her qualifications.
Barrett had been given the highest rating - 'well-qualified' - from the American Bar Association.
The date of the committee vote would allow final approval by the panel a week later, with a vote for confirmation by the full Senate on 26 October.
‘Pawn in a Larger Political Game’
Sean D. Foreman, professor of political science at Florida-based Barry University, commenting on the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, said they were unfolding just as expected.
As senators on both sides were “volleying back and forth” with their ideological concerns, he perceives Amy Coney Barrett to be more of a “pawn in their larger political game”.
Nothing that has either happened so far or is anticipated to happen this week has the potential to derail the nomination.
“Essentially the votes have already been decided though they had not yet been cast. At the end of all the theatrics Coney Barrett will be confirmed by the slimmest of margins and will become a Supreme Court Justice. For all of the hand-wringing and attempts to cry ‘foul’ about the process, Democrats will fall short in their efforts to block the nomination,” says Professor Foreman.
He added that the American public was hoping these hearings do not devolve into a major political ‘food fight’, similar to the hearings for Bret Kavanaugh.
“Democrats will continue to object to this nominee based on their perceived conclusions about the judge’s positions on the health care law and abortion and gay rights policies. They will also imply that Coney Barrett’s own religious beliefs will unduly influence her judicial decisions. Judge Coney Barrett is unflappable in public and will continue to maintain that composure even when the unfair questions come from Democrats through this week,” concluded Sean D. Foreman.
Last month, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a move criticised by the Democratic party, with its presidential nominee Joe Biden urging the Senate not to confirm any Supreme Court candidate until after the 3 November election.