Lacking A Path To Block Barrett, Senate Democrats Push For Viral Missteps

Topline

Senate Democrats have sought to box Judge Amy Coney Barrett into unpopular positions and tie her to heated national political debates during hearings to consider her nomination to the Supreme Court, underscoring the seeming inevitability of her confirmation.

Key Facts

During his questioning Tuesday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) invoked several unpopular statements President Trump has made in recent months, asking Barrett if she condemned white supremacy, which she did, and if she believes every president should commit to the peaceful transfer of power amid Trump’s refusal to do so, which she dismissed as a “political controversy right now” and expressed a desire to “stay out of it,” an answer liberal groups took aim at.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) elicited a similar demurral from Barrett by asking if it’s illegal to engage in voter intimidation – another pressing issue as Trump tells supporters to act as “poll-watchers” – with Barrett saying she “can’t characterize the facts in a hypothetical situation” and Klobuchar responding by citing the specific statute that criminalizes such activity.

Klobuchar also got Barrett to signal at least some view on landmark abortion case Roe v. Wad – a broadly popular ruling that Democrats argue will be gravely threatened by Barrett’s confirmation – in stating that it doesn’t fall into the category of “super precedent” that she assigned to Brown v. Board of Education and Marbury v. Madison.

Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Barrett whether the constitution – which empowers Congress to determine the time of elections – gives the president authority to “unilaterally delay an election under any circumstances,” to which Barrett responded that she would be a “legal pundit” by giving an answer to the question.

The questions represent an effort by Democrats to make Barrett’s confirmation – widely acknowledged on both sides of the aisle as an inevitable outcome – painful for Republicans at the ballot box in November by tying Barrett to unpopular policies and statements by Trump and making her a more divisive figure.

Crucial Quote

“To all Americans, we don’t have some clever procedural way to stop this sham, to stop them from rushing through a nominee,” Klobuchar said during the hearings on Monday. “But we have a secret weapon that they don’t have. We have Americans who are watching, who work hard every day, believe in our country and the rule of law, whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or Independent.”

Big Number

46%. That’s the share of Americans in a CNN poll released earlier this month who said they do not want Coney Barrett confirmed, compared to 42% who said the Senate should confirm her, which, according to the Economist, makes her the most unpopular Supreme Court nominee in recent history. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found 52% of voters believed whoever is elected in November should fill the seat, while 62% said Roe should be upheld.

What To Watch For

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), have already begun to campaign on opposition to the hearings even as they are still underway. During a swing through Florida on Tuesday, Biden slammed Republicans for holding the hearing during the pandemic instead of focusing on passing renewed stimulus funding, while Harris made similar comments during her time for questioning, addressing Americans directly and asserting that the Senate should be “laser-focused on you the American people to get you through this pandemic.”


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