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Democrats lament Amy Coney Barrett pick but say 'we can't stop the outcome'

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats "can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most, but we can't stop the outcome."
Federal appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett is nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump at White House on Saturday.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

Democrats on Sunday lamented Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court, saying it could be a death knell for the Affordable Care Act while suggesting that there's little they can do to halt the confirmation process.

Speaking on ABC News' "This Week," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats "can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most, but we can't stop the outcome."

Durbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee, took Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to task for promising to quickly move Barrett through the confirmation process while finding "no time to attend the negotiating on the coronavirus relief package that we need to put together for the pandemic facing our country, for the unemployed people, for the businesses."

"Senator McConnell refused to attend those meetings, didn't have time to do it. And yet when this vacancy occurred, he dropped everything," Durbin said. "Now we're going hellbent on getting this done before the election."

With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, four Republicans would need to cross party lines to prevent a vote ahead of the election. Two moderate Republican senators announced their opposition to a pre-election vote, but because McConnell eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017, Republicans need just 50 votes plus a tiebreaker cast by Vice President Mike Pence to confirm Barrett.

Speaking Sunday in Wilmington, Delaware, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said a vote on Barrett before the election "would be an irreversible step toward the brink — and a betrayal of a single quality that America has born and built on: The people decide."

It appears highly unlikely that any additional Republicans aside from Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine will come out against a pre-election vote. Biden said Sunday that he hasn't discussed the vote with any Senate Republicans.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., didn't seem as resigned to the inevitability of Barrett's confirmation, telling voters at a news conference Sunday that they need to inundate senators' offices with phone calls.

"We can stop this nomination," Schumer said, "if the people rise up and say no."

Some on the left have floated expanding the Supreme Court if Democrats retake the White House and the Senate this fall, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he wouldn't support such a move.

"I'm not going to vote for anything that would cause, basically, not to be able to work in a bipartisan way," he said. "That is not something that I would support. I can't support that."

Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy for rushing through the nominee mere weeks before Election Day while Republicans in 2016 refused to even hold a hearing on President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland months before the election, saying the decision should be made by the voters.

McConnell and other Republicans have defended the about-face by saying that, unlike in 2016, one party controls both the White House and the Senate.

"We clearly see the Republicans have shown the height of hypocrisy," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." Asked on "Meet the Press" whether he is concerned that his party will look hypocritical, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, "The voters will have to look at that and decide."

Democrats focused their ire over Barrett's selection on the future of the Affordable Care Act, which is set to face the Supreme Court just a week after Election Day. Barrett, a member of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who has criticized past judicial decisions upholding the health care law, could become the swing vote in deciding the law's future.

Trump himself opined about that possibility Sunday, tweeting: "Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court."

"Would be a big WIN for the USA!" the president said.

The president has repeatedly pledged to announce a replacement plan for what has become known as Obamacare — but he hasn't produced such a plan, although he recently offered a health care "vision." In 2017, Republican attempts to repeal and replace the law failed.

Biden responded to Trump's tweet Sunday, saying it "should come as no surprise" that the president "would lay out clearly what his objective is — to terminate Obamacare."

Criticizing Barrett's past comments about the Affordable Care Act, Biden said Americans are "already voting in droves because they know their healthcare hangs in the balance."

Speaking on "State of the Union," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: "What I am concerned about is anyone that President Trump would have appointed was there to undo the Affordable Care Act.

"That is why he was in such a hurry," she added.

Pelosi warned that should the health care law be killed, the electoral consequences for Republicans would be severe.

"The antidote to his — whatever he does — is to vote, vote, vote," she said. "Vote for affordable care, vote for your preexisting condition, vote for your safety, and vote for your health."

Democrats also zeroed in last week on Trump's declining to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose this fall. Trump has said he wants to have the next Supreme Court justice confirmed ahead of the election so nine justices could rule on election issues.

"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it's very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system's going to go very quickly," Trump said, adding that "having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation."

On "This Week," Durbin called Trump the first president "in the history of this country who would not declare that he would accept the verdict of the American people on the future leadership in the White House."

"He said he wants that court to be full," Durbin said. "He wants nine members there, and obviously the inference is he's going to need some supporters if there's an election contest."

Booker said on "Meet the Press" that he wants to ask Barrett "will she recuse herself" from such potential election-related decisions should she be confirmed.

"Because if she does not recuse herself, I fear that the court will be further delegitimized," he said. "Because President Trump has said I will not accept the result of the election unless I win. I will push it to the Supreme Court."