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Democrats protest Barrett's nomination as GOP sets Judiciary Committee vote

The Republican-led committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s nomination next Thursday; McConnell says it will go to the Senate floor the following day.

WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Thursday formally scheduled an Oct. 22 vote on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to serve as a Supreme Court justice, despite objections by Democrats.

Graham set the vote on the nomination for next Thursday at 1 p.m. ET and the full Senate floor vote is expected to take place ahead of Election Day, which is Nov. 3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in Kentucky on Thursday that he plans to begin floor consideration Oct. 23, which would likely lead to a final vote the following week.

Democrats on the committee protested the quick nature of the confirmation process, and an attempt to delay the vote by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was rejected. Several Democrats called the hearings a “sham.”

“The consequence of this rushed process is that we’ve given inadequate scrutiny to this nominee. I move to delay these proceedings so that we can do our job,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who called for the vote to be delayed indefinitely. He pointed to a report that there are seven speeches or talks delivered by Barrett that were not disclosed to the committee.

There’s never been a nomination in an election year after the month of July, Blumenthal said, adding that the “purpose of doing it is simply to have a justice on the Supreme Court, as the president said, to decide the election, and to strike down the Affordable Care Act. We’ve had inadequate time to review this nomination.”

Graham, however, said that there has been “nothing out of the norm here in terms of the time we’ve given this matter.” He said that typically, the Senate has confirmed Supreme Court justices within 17 to 19 days of being nominated by the president.

The business meeting and hearing Thursday capped off the marathon confirmation hearing this week for Barrett who would not answer many questions, especially from Democrats, on Tuesday and Wednesday about how she would rule on critical cases. She repeatedly said it would be inappropriate for her to signal where she stands on certain issues and said she would keep an open mind in all cases.

On Thursday, senators on the committee heard from two panels of experts invited by both parties. The witnesses invited by Democrats made their personal case about how Barrett’s confirmation would have a direct impact on real people if the Affordable Care Act is knocked down or Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“As a physician who engages with other doctors across the nation, I share the concern that any judge who opposes the ACA endangers a lifeline that my patients count on to stay healthy. And in many cases to stay alive," said Dr. Farhan Bhatti who sees patients in Lansing, Mich.

Another witness, Crystal Good of West Virginia, shared her story of trying to get an abortion at age 16 when she had an unwanted pregnancy.

“Access to an abortion should not depend on our GPA, the color of our skin, where we live, or the luck of the draw. It should not depend in any shape, form or fashion on who your governor is or who is sitting on the Supreme Court,” she said.

A law professor at the University of Virginia, Saikrishna Prakash, spoke on behalf of Republicans and described Barrett as a “five-tool athlete.”

“She is brilliant. She’s a tremendous educator. She’s an institutionalist. She’s a role model, and I’ll say finally she’s an originalist and I think that's a good thing,” Prakash said.

Democrats, meanwhile, emphasized Thursday that the Senate should not be considering Barrett's nomination because Americans are already casting ballots in the election.

“We should allow the winner of the election to pick this nominee,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said, adding “remember that we have literally millions and millions of people voting as we speak.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, however, said that the precedent has been clear — if the president and the Senate majority are of the same party, then the Senate confirms the nominee. Cruz said that wasn’t the case in 2016 when the Senate chose not to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. He said that he understands why Democrats are “frustrated” about that, but the White House and Senate Republicans “had differing views on the kind of justices that should serve on the court.”

Democrats have warned that Barrett’s record shows that she would be just as conservative as her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia. They have argued Barrett could vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, with the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the health care law Nov. 10. Democratic lawmakers also say they fear her confirmation could lead to a reversal of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protects a woman’s right to abortion.

Democrats have also said that one of the main reasons President Donald Trump and the Republicans are trying to ram Barrett's nomination through the Senate ahead of the election is because Trump wants her installed on the bench in case there’s a dispute over the election results that rises to the Supreme Court, as it did in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.

Durbin denounced Barrett on Thursday for refusing to answer the question regarding whether a president can unilaterally delay an election when the Constitution says he or she can’t, or the fact that she declined to weigh in on the issue of climate change.

“I’d be afraid to ask her about the presence of gravity on earth,” said Durbin, who then mocked Barrett’s approach, saying that she may decline because it may come up in a case that would come before the court someday.

Despite Democrats’ fierce opposition to her nomination, Senate Republicans are poised to confirm Barrett, filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Democrats don’t have the votes to block her nomination.