WASHINGTON (AP) — With a vote date set, the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday debated the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, Democrats objecting to Republicans’ rush to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick before the Nov. 3 election.
The committee set an Oct. 22 vote to recommend Barrett’s nomination and send it to the full Senate for a vote by month’s end.
“If anybody in America is ready to go to the Supreme Court” it’s Barrett, said Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Democrats tried, and failed, as the minority party to halt the process.
“This is a sham,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., arguing the Senate should wait until after the election and allow the winner of the presidency to chose the nominee for the vacant seat.
The session is without Barrett after two long days of public testimony in which she stressed that she would be her own judge and sought to create distance between herself and past positions critical of abortion, the Affordable Care Act and other issues.
Her confirmation to take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems inevitable, as even some Senate Democrats acknowledged.
Graham pushed past Democratic objections and procedural moves to set the panel’s Oct. 22 vote on recommending her confirmation even before final witnesses testify before and against her nomination.
In the minority, Democrats acknowledge there is little they can do stop them from locking a conservative majority on the court for years to come. The shift would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court and would be the most pronounced ideological change in 30 years, from the liberal icon to the conservative appeals court judge.
Republicans insisted they were well within norms with Trump as president. But no court nominee has ever been confirmed so close to a presidential election. Democratic called it a “power grab” and violation of Senate traditions.
Facing almost 20 hours of questions from senators, the 48-year-old judge was careful not to take on the president who nominated her and sought to separate herself from writings on controversial subjects when she was an academic. She skipped past Democrats’ pressing questions about ensuring the date of next month’s election or preventing voter intimidation, both set in federal law, and the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
She also refused to express her view on whether the president can pardon himself. “It’s not one that I can offer a view,” she said in response to a question Wednesday from Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Democrats raised those questions because President Donald Trump has done so himself.
When it came to major issues that are likely to come before the court, including abortion and health care, Barrett repeatedly promised to keep an open mind and said neither Trump nor anyone else in the White House had tried to influence her views.
“No one has elicited from me any commitment in a case,” she said.
Nominees typically resist offering any more information than they have to, especially when the president’s party controls the Senate, as it does now. But Barrett wouldn’t engage on topics that seemed easy to swat away, including that only Congress can change the date that the election takes place.