The hearing was marked with controversy from the very beginning.
The first day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded Monday afternoon, but not before President Trump’s pick for the high court faced scathing accusations from Democrats, and Republicans fired back in her defense.
Here are eight key moments from Day 1 of Barrett’s hearing.
1. Graham cites RBG in shooting down Dem arguments against hearing
Democrats have railed against President Trump and Senate Republicans for speedily pushing through Barrett’s confirmation process, insisting that it is too close to the election and voters should get to decide in November’s election who gets to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has even gone so far as to say that Republicans are “violating the Constitution.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., however, rejected that notion in his opening statement Monday, and cited Ginsburg herself in the process.
“The bottom line is, Justice Ginsburg, when asked about this several years ago, said a president serves for four years, not three,” Graham said. “There is nothing unconstitutional about this process.”
2. Leahy claims Barrett’s confirmation could be harmful to women
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., suggested that Barrett could be a potential threat to the rights of women and minorities, saying that Americans are worried that should she become a justice on the high court, her presence will set the country back decades.
“They’re scared that the clock will be turned back to a time when women had no right to control their own bodies and when it was acceptable to discriminate against women in the workplace,” Leahy said.
The Democrat went on to claim that there is concern that Barrett would rule in ways that would undo several other forms of equal protection under the law.
“And they’re scared that your confirmation will result in the rolling back of voting rights, workers’ rights, and the rights of the LGBTQ community to equal treatment,” Leahy said. “These aren’t just thoughts. These are real-life, implications of decisions made by the court.”
3. Sasse rips court packing as ‘partisan suicide bombing’
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., used his opening statement to give the viewing public — and his Senate colleagues — a civics lesson, explaining the difference between normal partisan politics and disagreements, and aspects of normal government function that should be agreed upon by all. In that vein, he warned that the call from some Democrats to eliminate the filibuster so they could expand the size of the Supreme Court and load it with liberal justices — commonly referred to as court-packing —would be an end to the Senate as they all know it.
“Court packing is the idea that we should blow up our shared civics, that we should end the deliberative structure of the Senate by making it just another majoritarian body for the purposes of packing the Supreme Court,” Sasse said. “Court packing would depend on the destruction of the full debate hear in the Senate, and it is a partisan suicide bombing that would end the deliberative structure of the United States Senate and make this job less interesting for all 100 of us. ”
4. Dems claim Trump chose Barrett to be a ‘judicial torpedo’ aimed at ObamaCare
A major theme of Democrats’ attacks on Barrett appeared to be the idea that President Trump nominated her due to her attitude towards the Affordable Care Act — also known as ObamaCare — with oral arguments coming up in November in a case that could potentially spell the end of it. Several senators insisted that this case, which will be heard one week after the presidential election, is the real reason why Republicans are hurrying to confirm Barrett.
President Trump has repeatedly indicated he will nominate a judge who would rule against Obamacare, and Barrett, prior to becoming a federal judge, criticized the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision that upheld it.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said that Republicans want to confirm Barrett “in time to ensure they can strip away the protections in the Affordable Care Act.”
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., gave Barrett the benefit of the doubt by not accusing her of making any arrangements with the president, but he still echoed the concerns of his fellow Democrats.
“I’m not suggesting you made some secret deal with President Trump, but I believe the reason you were chosen is precisely because your judicial philosophy, as repeatedly stated, could lead to the outcomes President Trump has sought,” Coons told Barrett. “I think that has dramatic and potentially very harmful consequences with regards to the election, the Affordable Care Act and long-settled rights.”
5. Lee comes out of coronavirus isolation, attends hearing in person
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had tested positive for coronavirus on Oct. 1 and said he would isolate himself for 10 days before returning to work. With Barrett’s confirmation hearing beginning on Oct. 12, Lee was back for the first day of the proceedings.
“I feel great,” Lee told reporters when entering the hearing room.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who was diagnosed with COVID-19 more recently, is participating virtually.
Harris, who also participated remotely, criticized Chairman Graham for bringing “together more than 50 people to sit inside a room for hours while our nation faces a deadly airborne virus.”
“This committee has ignored commonsense requests to keep people safe— including not requiring testing for all members — despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators of this very committee,” Harris said.
6. Durbin claims Trump wants Barrett confirmed because of possibility of contested election
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said President Trump nominated Barrett to the Supreme Court to do his “political chores” and “rule in his favor on any election contest” during the opening portion of Barrett’s confirmation hearing.
“President Trump has made it clear he wants another of his appointees on the Supreme Court before the election because he anticipates court challenges over the vote,” said Durbin, a top-ranking Senate Democrat. “President Trump has indicated he’d be perfectly happy to have a close election decided by a 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court rather than by the votes of the American people.”
7. Ernst, Hawley defend Barrett from attacks on faith
Before her confirmation hearing even began, Barrett, a mother of seven, faced scrutiny and criticism over her Roman Catholic faith. Media reports likened a religious organization with which she was affiliated to the dystopian television show “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and during her Seventh Circuit confirmation hearing in 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you,” which was “of concern.”
Such an avenue of attack was of major concern to Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.
“This freedom of conscience and religious liberty undergirds all of our other rights because it tells the government that it cannot tell us what to think or who we can assemble with or how we can worship,” Hawley said. “This bedrock principle of American liberty is now under attack. That is what is at stake when we read these stories attacking Judge Barrett for her faith. That’s what is at stake when my Democratic colleagues repeatedly questioned Judge Barrett and others about their religious beliefs.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, similarly stood by Barrett.
“What your political opponents want to paint you as is a TV or cartoon version of a religious radical,” Ernst said, adding that “a so-called ‘handmaid’ that feeds into all of the ridiculous stereotypes they have set out to lambaste people of faith in America. And that’s wrong.”
Ernst noted that such criticism is out of sync with the left’s usual support of equality and justice for women.
“I’m struck by the irony of how demeaning to women their accusations really are,” Ernst continued. “That you, a working mother of seven with a strong record of professional and academic accomplishment, couldn’t possibly respect the goals and desires of today’s women.
8. Barrett tells committee ‘courts should not try’ to do Congress’ job
In her opening statement on Monday, Barrett emphasized the role of the judicial branch and said it is not the court’s duty to “solve every problem or right every wrong” in American life.
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett delivers opening statement Video
“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people,” Barrett said. “The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”
Barrett aligned her legal philosophy with that of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a member of the court’s conservative wing for whom she previously clerked.
“It was the content of Justice Scalia’s reasoning that shaped me. His judicial philosophy was straightforward: A judge must apply the law as written, not as she wishes it were. Sometimes that approach meant reaching results that he did not like,” Barrett told senators.