Senate to wrap up Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing with legal experts

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday will wrap up four days of hearings on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett by questioning experts, including two from the American Bar Association, which calls her “well qualified” for the job.

Barrett will not be present, after making it through two long days of questioning by senators, in which she largely deflected Democratic committee members’ concerns that she would threaten Obamacare, abortion, voting rights and same-sex marriage.

Barrett’s confirmation to the lifetime post – a virtual certainty given Republicans’ Senate majority – would drive the Supreme Court further right with a 6-3 conservative majority. The conservative federal appellate judge is Republican President Donald Trump’s third nominee to the high court.

Senator Kamala Harris, who is Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate, said that the confirmation proceedings “lack legitimacy” because Americans want the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election to decide who fills the court’s vacancy.

“This hearing has done nothing to alleviate the concerns raised about why this nominee was chosen and why this is being rushed when the American people deserve to be heard,” Harris said, adding that the Senate should be working to provide economic relief to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic instead of “rushing a Supreme Court confirmation.”

On Thursday, the committee will hear from four witnesses in support of Barrett’s confirmation, and four against. The bar association, a national nonpartisan lawyers’ group, will talk about its positive evaluation of Barrett’s qualifications related to “integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament.”

Democrats said Republicans were pushing to seat Barrett in time for her to participate in a case on Nov. 10 in which Trump and Republican-led states are seeking to invalidate the 2010 Obamacare law formally called the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The law has helped millions of Americans obtain medical coverage and includes protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

‘Open mind’

Barrett tried to allay concerns, saying she would approach the case with an “open mind.” She said that even if one part of the law is deemed unlawful, if the rest of the statute can be saved, it is a judge’s duty to do so.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, lauded Barrett’s nomination as historic because of her views opposing abortion. After Wednesday’s questioning, he said: “I hope it’s OK that you can be pro-life and adhere to your faith and still be considered by your fellow citizens as worthy of this job.”

Barrett, 48, is a devout Catholic and a favorite among religious conservatives. She said the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide was not a “super-precedent” that could not be overturned.

Throughout the hearing, she sidestepped questions over whether she would recuse herself from any Election Day disputes, even though Trump has said he expects the court to decide the outcome of the election between him and Biden.

Barrett drew scrutiny from Democrats when she said it was an “open question” as to whether Trump could pardon himself, while adding that the top U.S. judicial body “can’t control” whether a president obeys its decisions.

Barrett also told the committee that she could not opine on whether presidents should commit to peaceful transfers of power if they lose an election. Trump created a furor in September when he refused to do so.

She also declined to give her view on whether human activities contribute to global climate change,” later calling it “a very contentious matter of public debate.”

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