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Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation hearings: Highlights from Day 1

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings will last through Thursday.
Image: Judge Amy Coney Barrett will attend Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate on Monday and Tuesday.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett will attend Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate on Monday and Tuesday.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday began its first day of confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

The hearings will last through Thursday.

Barrett's confirmation would cement conservative control of the nation's highest court, giving them a 6-3 advantage. Democrats have acknowledged there's little they can do to prevent her ascent, which Republicans are rushing to push through before the election, but they still plan to grill Barrett on several key issues, including abortion and Obamacare, as well as information that she initially failed to disclose in her Senate questionnaire.

This live coverage has ended. Read continuing coverage of Barret's second day of confirmation hearings here.

Read the latest updates below:

Sen. Mike Lee, who recently tested positive for Covid-19, attends the hearing in person

Sen. Mike Lee., R-Utah, arrives for the confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 2020.Win McNamee / AP

After it was unclear whether Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would participate in the hearing in person on Monday, the senator arrived just before 9 a.m. ET, wearing a face mask. 

"I feel great," Lee said as he entered the room. 

Lee, who said earlier this month that he tested positive for Covid-19 on Oct. 1, did not respond when asked if he was tested Monday.

Schumer outlines Democrats' strategy for Barrett hearing Monday

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee plan to focus on two things Monday: how Barrett could overturn the Affordable Care Act and what he said was the hypocrisy of Republicans for confirming a Supreme Court nominee right before an election. 

"We're going to focus on the issues, whether it be women's reproductive rights, the rights of labor, climate change, and above all of health care," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "We're going to show the American people how damaging this nominee, who said proudly, I guess, that she would follow Antonin Scalia, whose philosophy would turn the clock back 100 years."

Democrats, he said, plan to tell stories of people from their own states or other states to show how Supreme Court decisions could affect Americans' lives. 

Regarding speculation that Democrats would expand the Supreme Court if they win the presidency and take back the Senate, Schumer said he doesn't want to discuss that scenario now, but said "everything will be on the table" if that happens. 

Witness table set for Barrett

The witness table is set for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 2020.Alex Edelman / Pool via Getty Images

Several senators in both parties expected to participate virtually because of Covid-19

Several senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee are planning to attend the Barrett hearings virtually because they have either tested positive for Covid-19 or they are concerned they could be infected by others. 

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who recently tested positive for Covid-19, remains in quarantine and will appear virtually at least for the first day Monday. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tested positive for the disease recently and his office said his doctor would tell him Monday morning whether it would be safe for him to attend in person. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has tested negative for Covid-19, but remains in isolation because of his contact with an infected person, and would appear virtually on Monday. 

Most of the other Republicans are expected to appear in person. 

As for Democrats on the committee, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee, plans to attend virtually from her Senate office because of concerns about the lack of safety precautions. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will appear virtually because he's nervous the GOP chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, wasn't tested ahead of the hearings. 

Some Democrats will appear in person and it was unclear whether others also planned to participate remotely. 

Barrett to tell senators that courts are 'not designed to solve every problem'

Barrett will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday that serving on the Supreme Court "was not a position I had sought out, and I thought carefully before accepting," according to a copy of her opening statement obtained by NBC News.

Barrett does not mention her conservatism or her religious views in the four-page statement, and will instead tell senators that courts are "not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life."

"Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society," Barrett will say, after discussing her experience clerking for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Read more about this week's hearings and see her full opening statement.

The stakes are high in the Senate this week

The stakes are high for both sides during Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings this week.

Barrett's confirmation would cement conservative control of the nation's highest court, giving them a 6-3 advantage. At 48-years-old, Barrett would become the youngest member of the court and would potentially be able to serve for decades.

A devout Catholic, Barrett has the backing of evangelicals who consider her a likely vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. Democrats have said she's also likely to side against the Affordable Care Act. The high court is scheduled to hear that case on Nov. 10th.

Republicans don't have much margin for error. Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have said they wouldn't vote for any nominee given the proximity to the presidential election.

That leaves Republicans with 51 votes — just enough to confirm Barrett, barring defections or illness. If there's a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence could break it.

Read more on what to expect from this week's hearings.