Oct 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Harris calls Barrett confirmation hearing "illegimate" and "reckless"

Sen. Kamala Harris condemned the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as both "illegitimate" and "reckless," citing the more than 9 million Americans who have already voted in the 2020 election and the coronavirus risks that have prompted the Senate to suspend all other floor business.

Why it matters: Harris, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in addition to being Joe Biden's running mate, encapsulated the Democrats' strategic message for the confirmation fight on the first day of Barrett's hearings on Monday.

  • She accused Republicans of "jamming President Trump's nominee through the Senate" in order to strip away health care protections under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ACA on Nov. 10.
  • "These are not abstract issues. We need to be clear about how overturning the Affordable Care Act will impact the people we all represent," Harris said via online stream, choosing to attend the hearing remotely after two members of the committee tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The big picture: Democrats realize they have little hope of stopping Barrett's confirmation, so they are instead seeking to use the hearings as an opportunity to mobilize voters on key issues, like health care and voting rights.

  • But they also recognize they risk energizing Republicans if they go too far in their attacks, and they're hoping to minimize self-damage when pressing her on topics about abortion and her deeply conservative religious views.
  • A number of Democrats brought posters of their constituents who suffer from pre-existing conditions, for which the Affordable Care Act protects coverage.

The other side: Judiciary Republicans have largely used their opening statements to praise Barrett's legal record and personal story as a mother of seven. Some have condemned Democrats over perceived attacks on Barrett's religious background, though no Democrat has explicitly brought up her Catholic faith during the hearing.

The bottom line: “This is probably not about persuading each other unless something really dramatic happens,” Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham acknowledged. “All the Republicans will vote yes; all the Democrats will vote no.”

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