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Senators will get the chance to question Barrett in Tuesday confirmation hearing

Democratic and Republican lawmakers will have an opportunity on Tuesday to question President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee...

Posted: Oct 13, 2020 8:57 AM
Updated: Oct 13, 2020 4:09 PM

Democratic and Republican lawmakers will have an opportunity on Tuesday to question President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett during the second day of Senate hearings on her nomination, a highly anticipated moment that will mark the next stage in a contentious confirmation fight.

Partisan battle lines were quickly drawn on Monday during the first day of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee as Democrats and Republicans offered up sharply divergent narratives of the high court fight to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In opening statements delivered on Monday, Republican senators praised Barrett's judicial qualifications in glowing terms and emphasized her capability as a working mom, while Democrats warned that health care protections and the Affordable Care Act are at stake, and under threat, in the nomination fight.

Tuesday and Wednesday's hearing sessions in the committee will now allow for questioning, turning the spotlight squarely on Barrett as lawmakers get the chance to grill the nominee over her judicial philosophy.

Democrats are expected to continue to keep the focus on what they argue is the threat her confirmation poses to health care, while Republicans are expected to defend the nominee and continue to argue that she is well-qualified to fill the high court vacancy.

Republicans, who hold the Senate majority, are moving quickly to fill the vacancy with their sights set on confirmation ahead of Election Day.

Democrats, in the minority, have limited options at their disposal to fight back. But they have been preparing a plan of attack that will focus squarely on issues they believe will resonate with voters while excoriating Republicans for rushing the nomination, an effort designed to avoid a spectacle that could damage their efforts to win back the Senate majority and the White House.

As part of that effort, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have indicated they want to steer clear of questions about whether Barrett's devout Catholic faith will impact her views, an issue that arose during her 2017 confirmation hearings to sit on a federal appeals court and prompted an uproar among Republicans.

Instead, Democrats want to focus on issues like defending the Affordable Care Act amid a pandemic and their argument that the winner of the November 3 election should select the nominee, a position that polls show clear majorities of voters support.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on Barrett to commit to recusing herself from a fast-approaching case on the fate of the Affordable Care Act should she be confirmed to the Supreme Court, a plea the top Democrat in the upper chamber made one day before the start of the Judiciary committee hearings.

Democrats were united in keeping the focus on health care during Monday's hearing -- warning that Barrett's confirmation stands to jeopardize health care access and protections, a central part of the strategy they have so far employed in fighting the nomination.

In opening statements Monday, Democrats stuck to a script that was crafted by members of leadership and Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden weeks ago, a message that Democrats hope will win political support at the polls even if it cannot keep Barrett off the bench.

One after another, Democrats framed the issue in personal terms, sharing concerns from constituents and, in some cases, opening up about their own health conditions.

"Senators knew from the beginning they wanted to make this as tangible to people as possible, focusing on the what's at stake message and the real-life effects of a Justice Barrett's decisions. That goal and subsequent member conversations led to the decision to use the personal stories," a Democratic aide on the committee told CNN.

In contrast, Republicans used their time during Monday's hearings to highlight Barrett's qualifications to be appointed to the high court.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, described Barrett as "in a category of excellence," saying that she is "highly respected" and "widely admired for her integrity."

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who like Graham is up for reelection this cycle, told Barrett during the hearing that "folks with widely different judicial philosophies agree that you are brilliant, respectful, kind."

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