Senate Democrats have spent the last several weeks trying to slow down Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s ascent to the Supreme Court, but they appear to be out of ideas when it comes to actually stopping it.
“There's no procedural move that I'm aware of that allows the minority to slow this process down at all," Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, told Fox News in a report published Thursday. “And trust me, I've asked a lot.”
It’s a sentiment that his fellow Democrat, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, had expressed days before in an interview on ABC.
"We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most, but we can't stop the outcome,” said Durbin, who, like Coons, sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with considering Barrett’s nomination.
Even though Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have suggested they will not vote to confirm Barrett, the GOP likely still has the votes it needs to confirm her, thanks to their 53-47 majority in the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said that he plans to begin a hearing on the matter on Monday.
Senators will be able to participate virtually in the hearing. That capability could be essential to moving Barrett’s nomination forward, given that two of the committee’s members—Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina—are currently isolating after recently testing positive for the coronavirus. (Another Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, has also tested positive and is now isolating.)
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader of the Senate minority, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, have both said they oppose holding a virtual hearing about Barrett.
“There is bipartisan agreement that a virtual hearing for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench is not an acceptable substitute. All circuit court nominees have appeared in person during the pandemic,” the pair said in a joint statement Friday. “There is far more at stake for the American people with this Supreme Court nomination, including the Affordable Care Act being struck down and more than 7 million COVID survivors being denied health coverage.”
Graham, however, has broad latitude to rewrite his committee’s rules.
“That's one of the things that I think the general public doesn't quite appreciate is that as long as the majority is willing to change the rules and is willing to insist on moving ahead when it is demonstrably unsafe, unwise, and unprecedented to do so, there's nothing the minority can do to stop them,” Coons said.
Under the current rules, Graham would need a majority of the committee to be “actually present” to report a nomination to the full Senate. It’s unclear if virtual participation counts. And if the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are able to move the vote to the full Senate, the chamber’s rules require that senators show up in person to cast their vote.
“A lot of this will just depend on whether they can make a quorum, both in the committee and then on the floor to be able to proceed,” an unnamed Democratic aide told Fox News.
Barrett’s nomination also came up on Wednesday’s vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The moderator, Susan Page, brought up Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide and that stands a distinct possibility of being overturned if Barrett—who has indicated several times that she personally opposes abortion—joins the bench.
If Roe is overturned, the question of whether abortion should be legal would again return to the states. When Page asked Pence, an adamant anti-abortion crusader, if he would support banning abortion in his home state of Indiana, he punted and didn’t answer the question. However, he reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to “stand strong for the right to life.”
The broader American public is split on Barrett’s nomination, according to a CNN poll released Wednesday, which found that 46% of Americans think she should not be confirmed and 42% believing that she should.
Republicans and Democrats are overwhelmingly divided on their beliefs about Barrett, who currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. More than 80% of Republicans said she should be confirmed, while only 8% of Democrats said the same.
Cover: Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett listens as Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Ks., not shown, speaks during their meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, POOL)