WASHINGTON – Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination cleared a key hurdle Thursday as Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans powered past Democrats' objections in the drive to confirm President Donald Trump's pick before the Nov. 3 election.
The panel set Oct. 22 for its vote to recommend Barrett's nomination to the full Senate for a final vote by month's end.
“A sham,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. “Power grab,” decried Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “Not normal,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
“You don't convene a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, in the middle of a pandemic, when the Senate's on recess, when voting has already started in the presidential election in a majority of states,” declared Sen. Chris Coon, D-Del.
But Republicans countered that Trump is well within bounds as president to fill the court vacancy, and the GOP-held Senate has the votes to push Trump's nominee to confirmation.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he understands Democrats' “disappointment, but I think their loss is the American people's gain.”
Barrett's confirmation to take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is poised to lock a conservative majority on the court for years to come. The shift would cement a 6-3 court in the most pronounced ideological change in 30 years, from the liberal icon to the conservative appeals court judge.
The committee's session Thursday was without Barrett after two long days of public testimony in which she stressed that she would be her own judge and sought to create distance between herself and past positions critical of abortion, the Affordable Care Act and other issues.
Instead, outside witnesses testified, including representatives of the American Bar Association's standing committee which gave Barrett its highest “well qualified” rating – but not unanimously. Barrett is the first high court nominee since Justice Clarence Thomas not to earn a unanimous rating.
Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights opposing Barrett's nomination, said the judge's unwillingness to speak forcefully for the Voting Rights Act should “sound an alarm” for Americans with a case heading to the high court.
“Our nation deserves a justice who is committed to preserving the hard-earned rights of all Americans, particularly the most vulnerable,” said Clarke.
Retired appellate court Judge Thomas Griffith assured that Barrett is among justices who “can and do put aside party and politics.”
Among those testifying was Michigan primary care doctor Farhan Batti who warned of the toll on his patients if the Supreme Court does away with the health care law and Crystal Good, a writer from West Virginia, who told the very personal story of seeking an abortion as a sexually-abused teen-ager.
“Hear us when we ask you not to approve this nomination,” she implored the senators.