By Lawrence Hurley and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic senators, including vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, on Monday described President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a threat to Obamacare’s healthcare law during a deadly pandemic and denounced the Republican campaign to pass it before November 3. United States elections.
When the Senate Judiciary Committee began its four-day confirmation hearing for Barrett, Democrats voiced their opposition even though they have little hope of derailing his nomination in the Republican-led Senate.
Republican senators praised Barrett, an appeals court judge and a favorite of religious conservatives, as well as being qualified for a lifetime job in the superior court and a worthy successor to the late liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. .
Barrett wore a black protective mask and sat at a table with bottles of water, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes within reach as senators – some present in the room and others on video links due to concerns about COVID-19 – made statements. opening. Barrett, who had a bout with the coronavirus earlier in the year, removed his mask when he swore to deliver his own opening statement.
“I believe that Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and our laws as written,” said Barrett, with her husband and six of their seven children sitting behind her as she read the prepared comments posted they had made public. on Sunday.
Barrett’s confirmation would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority that could roll back abortion rights, expand religious and gun rights, and maintain Republican-backed voting restrictions, among other issues.
But it was the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, the most distinctive national policy achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama that has enabled millions of Americans to get health coverage, that was the Democrats’ approach. . Barrett has criticized a 2012 Supreme Court ruling by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts that defended Obamacare.
Harris, the running mate of Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden, said the hearing should have been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns and said the confirmation process is so close to a hasty and illegitimate election.
“I think this hearing is a clear attempt to get through a Supreme Court candidate who will take care of millions of people during a deadly pandemic that has already killed more than 214,000 Americans,” Harris said, speaking via a link. Of video.
“A clear majority of Americans want whoever wins the election to occupy this seat, and my Republican colleagues know it. Yet they are deliberately defying the will of the people in their attempt to roll back the rights and protections provided by the United States Law. Affordable Health Care, “Harris said.
Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare in Congress have failed.
Barrett could be confirmed in time to participate in a case to be discussed on Nov. 10 in which Trump and the Republican-led states seek to invalidate Obamacare. Some legal experts doubt that the judges, even with Barrett’s confirmation, will sue Obamacare.
Democrats displayed posters of patients who could lose their health coverage if Obamacare is invalidated, and senators recounted their individual stories. Obamacare prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Barrett will face questioning from senators Tuesday and Wednesday in a hearing that sets the stage for a full Senate vote in late October to confirm it. Republicans have a 53-47 majority, so Barrett’s confirmation seems almost certain.
‘THE WORLD IS WATCHING’
Republican Senator Ted Cruz said the Democratic focus on health care and other policy issues showed that they were not questioning Barrett’s qualifications to serve as a judge.
Republican committee chairman Lindsey Graham (NYSE 🙂 implored senators to keep the audience respectful, saying, “Let’s remember, the world is watching.”
“It’s probably not about persuading each other unless something really dramatic happens. All Republicans will vote yes and all Democrats will vote no,” Graham said.
Graham defended the Republicans’ approach while acknowledging that four years earlier they had refused to act on Obama’s candidate to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court because it was an election year. There is nothing unconstitutional about proceeding now, Graham said.
Senator Patrick Leahy condemned the “mad rush” to fill the vacancy, accusing Republicans of trying to turn the courts into “an arm of the far right and the Republican Party.”
Republican Senator Mike Lee personally attended the hearing nine days after revealing that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
More than 20 people were arrested in the Supreme Court and Senate office buildings amid demonstrations for and against Barrett.
Conservative Christian activists hope the court will overturn Roe v. Wade of 1973 that legalized abortion across the country. Barrett is a devout Catholic who has voiced his opposition to abortion.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker said “Senate Republicans have found a candidate in Judge Barrett who they know will do what they couldn’t do: subvert the will of the American people and repeal Roe v. Wade.”
Republicans tried to portray Democrats as an attack on Barrett on religious grounds, although Democrats stayed out of doing so.
Speaking to reporters in Delaware, Biden, who is a Catholic, said Barrett’s Catholic faith should be off limits.
“This nominee said she wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. The president wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said. “Let’s keep our eye on the ball.”