By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The high-stakes confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is underway Monday as Senate Republicans push for a final vote before Election Day despite Democratic calls to let voters decide who should pick a new justice.
Trump nominated Barrett to fill the seat left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The four days of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, overseen by its chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, will be unprecedented, with some members participating virtually and in-person. Barrett will appear at the witness table to face questions.
The hearing started at 9 a.m. and will be live streamed on ABC News Live.
Barrett, 48, a devout Roman Catholic, was a law clerk to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, considers him her mentor and follows his originalist interpretation of the Constitution. She practiced law at a Washington firm for two years before returning to her alma mater, Notre Dame Law School, to teach. She was nominated by Trump to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2017 and confirmed by the Senate that October in a 55-43 vote.
Here is how the news is developing Monday. All times Eastern:
Oct 12, 11:11 am
Klobuchar appeals to American people: ‘Your health care is on the line’
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a former prosecutor, took the Democratic case directly to the American people in her opening statement, telling them to call Republican senators and tell them “enough is enough.”
“Why, Senator Cruz, does President Trump matter?” she began in response to her GOP colleague immediately preceding her. “He is putting the Supreme Court in place in his words to, quote, ‘look at the ballots,’ end quote.”
“Well, I won’t concede that this election is headed to the courts because you know at home exactly what the president is up to. That’s why you are voting. That’s why you are voting in droves. Why are you voting? Well, you know that your rights, your health care is on the line.”
Klobuchar emphasized that Judge Barrett has been critical on multiple occasions of the court upholding the Affordable Care Act — and the timing of its oral arguments on its fate on Nov. 10.
“To the women of America, we have come so far and in the name of RBG. We should not go backwards,” she said. “This isn’t Donald Trump’s country. It is yours.”
“This shouldn’t be Donald Trump’s judge. It should be yours.”
Oct 12, 11:00 am
Cruz claims all Republicans support preexisting conditions
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ticked off a list of Judge Barrett’s accomplishments and gave a misleading statement on where Republicans have historically stood on preexisting conditions.
“Every single member of the Senate agrees that pre-existing conditions can and should be protected. Period. The end,” Cruz said. “There is complete unanimity on this.”
But Cruz is the senator whose filibuster in 2013 shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act which covers preexisting conditions.
Cruz, appearing virtually, tested negative for COVID-19 but has been self-quarantining after coming into contact with Lee, who tested positive yet delivered his opening statement in-person and without a mask.
Oct 12, 10:52 am
Whitehouse calls Trump ‘an irresponsible botch’
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., deemed Judge Barrett’s nomination and President Donald Trump’s inability to keep the White House safe from COVID-19 both “an irresponsible botch.”
“America is worried about one thing above all else right now and it’s our health. This hearing itself is a microcosm of Trump’s dangerous ineptitude in dealing with the COVID pandemic. Trump can’t even keep the White House safe. Here it’s the chairman’s job to see to the committee’s safety. And though his words were reassuring, I don’t know who has been tested,” Whitehouse said, noting that Graham didn’t release the results of a second test.
“The whole thing, just like Trump, is an irresponsible botch. The irony is that this slapdash hearing targets the Affordable Care Act,” Whitehouse said.
He went on to say Americans see this nomination as an “ugly hasty hypocritical power grab” and that “they know what it means for their health care in the midst of a pandemic.”
“For Republicans, there is no washing your hands of responsibility for the results that your president has told us will ensue,” he added.
Oct 12, 10:23 am
GOP Sen. Lee, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, appears in-person
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who tested positive for coronavirus after Judge Barrett’s Rose Garden nomination event on Sept. 26, appeared in-person and delivered his opening statement without a mask, despite heightened COVID-19 fears on Capitol Hill.
He used his time to criticize the “politicization” of Judge Barrett’s nomination and reminded colleagues that Barrett is a judge, not a policymaker, and should be asked questions accordingly.
“These tactics of creating fear and uncertainty and doubt, these tactics that result in relentless protests outside of the one branch of government that isn’t political astound me, dismay me and disappoint me. They reflect the fact that we have allowed for the politicization of the one branch of the federal government that is not political,” Lee said.
“We ourselves within the legislative branch have got to do a better job by focusing on the fact that the Constitution is not just a judicial thing. It’s also a legislative thing. It is also an executive thing. It is an American thing. It’s one of the many reasons why I will object to anyone, anytime anyone tries to attribute to you a policy position and hold you to that,” he concluded.
Lee’s presence would appear to violate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolation guidelines as he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2, just 10 days ago.
“Good news,” said Graham, leading the hearing. “Senator Lee’s enthusiasm for the dormant Commerce Clause convinces me you have made a full recovery.”
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