Sep 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP fears "little guy" attack on Amy Coney Barrett

Hands fighting off gavel

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

White House aides and Senate Republicans have spent the past week readying binders full of messaging and rebuttals to guide Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a pre-Nov. 3 confirmation. "We knew for days it was going to be Amy," a Senate GOP aide involved in her confirmation process told Axios.

What we're hearing: Beyond the expected questions about her views on religion, abortion and health care, Republicans worry about Democrats painting Barrett as someone who is insensitive and unfair to “the little guy,” one source involved in the talks told Axios.

  • That argument plays right into Democrats' campaign themes about the economy, health care and entitlements. And they can draw from her judicial record for examples.
  • "You saw the 'little guy' theme with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh," the source said. "I think you'll see that in this context as well."

Republicans expect Democrats to bring up Barrett’s support of the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule restricting immigration for those receiving public benefits and a Title IX case in which she argued Purdue University may have discriminated against a male student accused of sexual assault.

  • “Obviously, some of the outside groups will bring up the religious stuff. But I think the way they'll bring that up is by trying to find a way to tie it to insensitivity or bigotry, as opposed to being extremist, because the extremist thing just isn't going to work,” one person involved in the process told me.

What's next: Opening statements at Barrett's confirmation hearings are expected Oct. 12, Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham said on Fox News.

  • The first round of questions will follow on Oct. 13.
  • A second round of questions and a closed session are tentatively set for Oct. 14, we're told.
  • Outside witnesses will present Oct. 15.

What to watch: President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are so confident they'll confirm Barrett that they're already thinking about who to tap to replace her on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, based in Chicago.

  • Quickly filling Barrett's role as a judge on the 7th Circuit would be "the cherry on top" of a massive victory for conservatives, a GOP Senate aide said — "one that McConnell won't pass up."

Among the names being floated is Kate Todd, a White House lawyer who was included on Trump's Supreme Court shortlist.

  • Todd, who's also from Indiana, is a favorite of White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

An administration official says no one has been formally considered yet.

Go deeper: U.S. Chamber to launch widespread lobbying effort for Barrett fight

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