WASHINGTON – The Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee ignored objections from Democrats on Thursday to schedule for Oct. 22 a vote on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death last month of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The committee chair, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, moved the motion to set a date in violation of rules that require the presence of at least two minority members to conduct business.
Only one Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, was in the room at the start of the session, though Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal entered during the course of the vote on Graham’s motion, which passed.
The Republicans subsequently voted down a motion from Blumenthal calling for the process to be halted “indefinitely.”
Citing a report from CNN showing that Barrett omitted information from the paperwork she submitted to the committee, Blumenthal said that the nomination “has been rushed in a way that is historically unprecedented.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that Republicans “have the votes” to confirm Barrett.
He said the full Senate will take up the nomination on Oct. 23 and that the final vote could take place on Oct. 26, eight days before the Nov. 3 election in which Trump is seeking a second term against Democrat Joe Biden.
Democrats describe the entire process surrounding the nomination as illegitimate, pointing to the events of 2016, when McConnell led the Republicans in refusing to even consider then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell insisted that choosing Scalia’s replacement should be left to the winner of that year’s presidential contest pitting Trump against Hillary Clinton.
While Democrats cry foul, the Kentucky lawmaker says that the circumstances are different from 2016 because the same party now controls both the White House and the Senate.
Barrett, a 48-year-old mother of seven, underwent two days of questioning before the committee that produced no new insights into how she might rule on issues such as abortion, health care or a disputed election.
The former law professor, who became a federal appellate judge in 2017, said that she would “apply the law as the law.”
“I have made no commitment to anyone, not in the Senate, not over at the White House, about how I would decide any case,” she said during Tuesday’s session.
Barrett is a conservative and a devout Catholic and several of the Democrats sought to draw her out on the issue of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States.
The nominee, who in 2006 signed an add decrying the “barbaric legacy” of Roe v. Wade, declined to say whether she thought the court ruled correctly or not in the landmark abortion rights case.
Democrats also tried to determine whether Barrett would rule against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a case scheduled to reach the Supreme Court early next month.
The ACA was the major domestic policy initiative of Obama’s 2009-2017 administration.
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons pointed to an article Barrett wrote as a law professor in which she faulted Chief Justice John Roberts for joining the liberals on the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the ACA.
The nominee responded by contrasting the role of a private citizen with that of a judge.
“I have no hostility to the ACA. If a case came up before me, presenting a different question to the ACA, I would approach it with no bias or hostility,” she said.
Barrett declined to answer when Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, pointing to Trump’s affirmation that he wanted to fill the seat on the Supreme Court to prevent the Democrats from “stealing” the election, asked if she would recuse herself if a dispute over the Nov. 3 ballot reached the court.