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Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Democrats are heading into this week's confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett with one overarching goal: protect Joe Biden's election.

Why it matters: They have little chance of stopping Barrett's confirmation unless more Republican senators test positive for the coronavirus or there's a truly unexpected disclosure, which sources from both parties say is unlikely.

  • So Democrats are instead hoping 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.

The other side: Republicans plan to play it safe and confirm Barrett as quickly as possible.

  • They plan to redirect a lot of their time with Barrett to fanning the notion that if Biden is elected, Democrats will pursue Supreme Court packing to dilute a conservative lock.

Behind the scenes: Senate Judiciary Democrats have been regularly meeting over the past few weeks to strategize and divvy up their lines of attack.

  • They plan to press Barrett to recuse herself from cases directly involving the November election and will lean into fears about what a 6-3 conservative court that includes her could do to unravel protections for voting rights and for health insurance coverage of preexisting conditions.

On abortion and religion: People on both sides believe Barrett's addition to the court could roll back abortion rights. But a real or perceived attack on her Catholic faith by Democrats on the committee could hurt Biden in close states.

  • Some Democratic voters oppose abortion, or are sensitive to any appearance of religious persecution.
  • Barrett’s past comments about the role of precedent could provide a safer opening.

Barrett will likely stick to the same refrain every modern nominee does. Expect her to say time and time again that she would give every case a fair hearing and would not want to prejudge a case or an issue now that she could very well have to decide if she’s confirmed.

  • That repetition can get frustrating during a hearing, especially with nominees — like Barrett — whose writings and rulings do provide a fairly grounded sense of how she’s likely to rule. But it’s worked well enough for every other nominee in the past 30 years.

The bottom line: If Barrett is confirmed, the Supreme Court will have the potential to curb Democrats’ agenda for decades.

Go deeper: Read Barrett's opening statement

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats call on Schumer for speedy Trump impeachment trial

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats are in a dilemma of their own making, and now they want incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to wrap up President Trump's impeachment trial as fast as possible, two sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: The party wanted to hold the president accountable for helping incite last week's Capitol attack but the actual mechanism for doing so — a Senate trial — is a balky tool that will inhibit President-elect Joe Biden from launching his effort to heal the country and its economy.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 mins ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 9 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.