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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:

Kennedy: Racist is 'the worst thing you can call an American'

665d ago / 5:49 PM UTC
Image: Amy Coney Barrett
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.Patrick Semansky / Pool via AP

Like other Republicans, Sen. John Kennedy sought to shift the conversation away from criticisms of the confirmation process and onto Barrett's religion.

While Democrats never talked about Barrett's religion during the hearing, Republicans repeatedly brought it up as something she was unfairly being targeted for.

In making his point, Kennedy, R-La., discussed how hurtful it is to be called a "racist," "white colonialist," or "religious bigot," none of which were used by Democratic senators to describe Barrett.  

"I know for someone unaccustomed to it, that it hurts to be called a racist," Kennedy said. "I think it’s the worst thing you can call an American."

“I know it hurts to be called a white colonialist," Kennedy continued. "I know it must hurt for someone of deep Christian faith like yourself, to be called a religious bigot — to have it implied that because you are a devout Christian, that you are somehow unfit for public service."

Rep. Ilhan Omar slams GOP senators on 'all this righteous talk about religious freedom'

665d ago / 5:36 PM UTC

Harris says Ginsburg's entire legacy is in jeopardy

665d ago / 5:30 PM UTC

Harris echoed other Democrats on Monday, focusing her criticism of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination on the potential the Affordable Care Act could be overturned.

Harris, who is Joe Biden's running mate, said Barrett's nomination puts "in jeopardy" Ruth Bader Ginsburg's "legacy and the rights she fought so hard to protect."

"By replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone who will undo her legacy, President Trump is attempting to roll back Americans’ rights for decades to come," she said. "Every American must understand that with this nomination, equal justice under law is at stake."

She said voting, workers and abortion rights are in jeopardy. She said the "hearing is a clear attempt to jam through a Supreme Court nominee who will take health care away from millions people during a deadly pandemic that has already killed more than 214,000 Americans." 

"We must listen to our constituents, protect their access to health care, and wait to confirm a new Supreme Court justice until after Americans decide who they want in the White House," she said.

Harris suffers technical difficulties at beginning of statement

665d ago / 5:23 PM UTC

The Senate is not immune from the pains of videoconferencing as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., ran into some trouble as she began reading her opening statement, remotely.

As Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, began to speak, a loud feedback sound rang through the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room instead.

"Just wait, just one second," Graham said as Harris began reading her prepared remarks. "We don't see you."

"You don't see me?" Harris responded.

The problem seemed to alleviate.

"There we go," Graham said.

"Can you see me now?" Harris replied.

"Loud and clear," Graham said.

Booker criticizes Congress for lack of action on new coronavirus relief package

665d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., highlighted the lack of congressional action to combat the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Instead of doing anything to help people who are struggling right now, we're here," Booker said. "We're here."

He highlighted discrepancies between the access to health care members of Congress have to the access Americans have through the Affordable Care Act.

"I'm so glad — I'm really glad — my colleagues who contracted Covid at the Rose Garden superspreader event for Judge Barrett have access to the care that you and your families needed," Booker said. "That's right. That's a blessing."

Booker's opening remarks unconvincing to an originalist

665d ago / 4:54 PM UTC

Ernst praises Barrett as a trailblazer for women

665d ago / 4:51 PM UTC

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, praise Barrett as a trailblazing woman who is following in a long tradition of others like her.

"This is what a mom can do," Ernst said.

Locked in a tight re-election battle back home, Ernst said of Barrett that Democrats "cannot attack your qualifications."

Hirono criticizes Barrett's nomination ceremony as White House 'superspreader' event

665d ago / 4:43 PM UTC

In her opening statement, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, lambasted Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination ceremony at the White House as a "superspreader" event, calling the White House a "Covid-19 hotspot driven by the president's denial of how serious this pandemic is."

Trump, the first lady, multiple Republican senators and others close to the president in attendance at that late-September event tested positive for the coronavirus in the days that followed.

Hirono said Congress should be taking up additional legislation to provide coronavirus relief rather than considering a Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election, a confirmation she deemed a "hypocritical, illegitimate process."

Like other Democrats, Hirono focused on the possibility that Barrett could be the deciding vote in overturning the Affordable Care Act.

She spoke about her personal experiences with health care: her kidney cancer diagnosis.

Hirono, Klobuchar wear themed masks for hearing

665d ago / 4:39 PM UTC
Image: Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett To Be Supreme Court Justice
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, wears a mask decorated with images of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Shawn Thew / Pool via Getty Images
Image: U.S. Senate holds confirmation hearing for Barrett to be Supreme Court justice in Washington
Sen. Amy Klobuchar wears a pin of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Reuters

Capitol police arrest 21 outside Senate building

665d ago / 4:08 PM UTC

U.S. Capitol Police say they arrested 21 demonstrators outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings are taking place, on Monday morning.

Police spokesperson Eva Malecki said those arrested were charged with "crowding, obstructing or incommoding" and one person was charged with "unlawful conduct."

665d ago / 4:00 PM UTC

Trump rants about health care after Democrats focus on ACA

665d ago / 3:54 PM UTC

Hearing in recess until 12:20 p.m. ET

665d ago / 3:52 PM UTC

Graham announced that the hearing has recessed until 12:20 p.m. ET, at which point they will return to senators' opening statements.

Tillis delivers opening statement remotely after testing positive for the coronavirus

665d ago / 3:49 PM UTC

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., delivered his opening statement remotely because, like fellow GOP Sen. Mike Lee, who is attending the hearing in person, he also recently tested for Covid-19. 

The GOP senator, who is facing a tough re-election race, defended Barrett's record and echoed the argument made by his fellow Republicans that Democrats want the judiciary to uphold the policies that can't pass in Congress.

"She's not a legislator. That's our job," he said. "However, when the minority can't get their bad policies passed in Congress, they turn to the courts to demand that judges interpret the law, not as written, but as they prefer." 

Protesters clash with Barrett supporters outside Supreme Court

665d ago / 3:47 PM UTC
Image: Protests And Rallies Held On First Day Of Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing
Supporters of Judge Amy Coney Barrett attempt to drown out pro-choice supporters outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 12, 2020.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Blumenthal says Barrett 'must recuse' herself from any election-related disputes

665d ago / 3:42 PM UTC

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that Barrett should recuse herself if any election-related case comes before the Supreme Court after the upcoming election, assuming she's confirmed by then. 

"You must recuse yourself," he said. "It's a break-the-glass moment."

Trump has suggested that if he loses the election, the results might need to be challenged in court, potentially the Supreme Court, because of mass mail-in ballot programs in some states. 

Image: Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett To Be Supreme Court Justice
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks during the confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 12, 2020.Shawn Thew / Pool via Getty Images

Hawley attacks those who might consider Barrett's faith an issue

665d ago / 3:28 PM UTC

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., attacked Democrats in his opening remarks, claiming that some have implied that Barrett's Catholic faith would be an issue in her decisions if she's confirmed. 

Hawley said it's "an attempt to bring back the days of the religious test."

"We all know that she and her husband have chosen to raise their family according to their Catholic beliefs and faithful fellowship with other Catholics," he said. "We all know that 65 million Americans are Catholics, and many many millions more are Christians of other persuasions. Are they to be told that they cannot serve in public office, that they are not welcome in the public sphere unless the members of this committee sign off on their religious beliefs? I, for one. do not want to live in such an America, and the Constitution of the United States flatly prohibits it."

Democrats on the panel have not raised Barrett's faith as an issue, focusing largely on their concerns she might vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

Graham says panel will take 30-minute lunch break

665d ago / 3:23 PM UTC

Graham advised there will be a 30-minute lunch break after Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who is speaking virtually, conclude. 

After lunch, seven senators remain to deliver opening statements. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is up first after the break.

ANALYSIS: Who wants philosopher-kings? 'Republic'ans

665d ago / 3:06 PM UTC

It's like Sen. Ted Cruz is trolling the republic — and "The Republic."

"Who would want philosopher kings?" he asked. He might be right that Americans don't want to vest the high court with tremendous power over daily life.

But the concept of a "philosopher-king" comes from Plato, the godfather of Western democracy, in "The Republic," arguably a key text in the philosophical underpinnings of the Constitution. Moreover, it is the text from which Cruz's party takes its name.

665d ago / 2:58 PM UTC

Biden says Democrats should focus on Obamacare, not religion

665d ago / 2:56 PM UTC

Joe Biden was asked on Monday if Democrats should consider Amy Coney Barrett’s faith during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week.

"No, her faith should not be considered," Biden said, later adding, "I don’t think there’s any question about her faith.” 

Biden then pivoted to discussing the Affordable Care Act, which Barrett could vote to strike down if she is confirmed.

"We're already in the midst of a real fight here. Everyone knows in 28 days, 20 million Americans may lose their health care. This nominee said she wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. The president wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act," Biden said. "Let's keep our eye on the ball. This is about whether or not in one, in less than one month Americans are going to lose their health insurance."

Klobuchar points to family Covid-19 infections in arguing against a vote on Barrett

665d ago / 2:53 PM UTC

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., expressed outrage that the Senate was considering a nominee critical of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic and ahead of an election, calling it a "sham." 

"It's personal to me because my husband got Covid early on. He ended up in the hospital for a week on oxygen, with severe pneumonia, and months after he got it, I find out the president knew it was airborne, but he didn't tell us," she said. 

"We were cleaning on every surface in our house and my husband got it anyway," said Klobuchar, who added that her 92-year-old father contracted the disease at his assisted living facility. "I stood outside his window and a mask. And he looked so small and confused. He knew who our family was, but he didn't know what was going on. I thought it was going to be the last time that I saw him. He miraculously survived."

Democrats illustrate stories of Americans who benefit from Obamacare

665d ago / 2:50 PM UTC
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., listens as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks onscreen during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., listens as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks onscreen during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.Kevin Dietsch / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

Cruz participating in hearing remotely

665d ago / 2:44 PM UTC

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is participating in the hearing remotely because he was exposed to someone with Covid-19 recently. 

Cruz said every senator agrees that pre-existing conditions should be covered by health insurance. 

"There is complete unanimity on this," he said, responding to Democratic attacks that Barrett would vote to remove those protections by voting down Obamacare. 

Whitehouse: Thousands of Rhode Islanders view Barrett as a 'judicial torpedo aimed at their essential protections'

665d ago / 2:28 PM UTC

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said in his opening statement that he hopes Republicans consider that health care coverage is at stake in this confirmation process, as millions of people are relying on the Affordable Care Act during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Whitehouse said that Rhode Islanders are "calling, writing, emailing, tweeting me by the thousands asking me to say 'no' to this nominee mostly because they see her as a judicial torpedo aimed at their essential protections." 

"My constituents want you, my colleagues, members of the Republican Party, to stand up for once to Mitch McConnell and to the big donors who are driving this process, and for the sake of regular people, say 'stop,'" he said. 

ANALYSIS: Trump sees a political loser

665d ago / 2:19 PM UTC

When President Donald Trump weighed in on the hearings via Twitter on Monday morning, he made clear he thinks Barrett’s confirmation is a political loser compared to the prospect of getting a stimulus deal.

“Personally, I would pull back, approve, and go for STIMULUS for the people!!!” he wrote.

Just last week, he said he was canceling stimulus talks before reversing his course at the behest of just about every Republican official who would like to see him re-elected.

If he thought the confirmation was helpful to him, he would surely want the hearing to get more attention than stimulus negotiations he tried to kill last week.

Trump seems particularly perturbed by the effect of Democratic senators, who have largely split their time between hammering him on a variety of things and showing pictures of constituents who rely on Obamacare for lifesaving health insurance coverage.

"The Republicans are giving the Democrats a great deal of time, which is not mandated, to make their self serving statements relative to our great new future Supreme Court Justice," he said.

Lee delivers opening statement without wearing a mask

665d ago / 2:14 PM UTC
Image: Amy Coney Barrett
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 2020.Susan Walsh / AP

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, delivered his opening statement without wearing a mask inside the hearing room despite testing positive for Covid-19 on Oct. 1. 

He decided to attend the hearing in person Monday after he said his doctor told him it would be safe to do so.

"I’ve gotten the sign-off from the Office of the Attending Physician, I’ve gone through the appropriate number of days ... and I’m no longer contagious," Lee said in an interview with the conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt ahead of the hearing Monday. 

Trump calls Democrats' opening statements 'self serving'

665d ago / 2:07 PM UTC

Cornyn: 'There's no religious test to serve on the Supreme Court'

665d ago / 2:02 PM UTC

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, suggested that Barrett's Catholicism should not be an issue in her confirmation and that judges should not be "unelected super legislators." 

"Democrats on and off the committee want a real fight," he said in his opening statement. "Let me be clear, judge, as you know, there's no religious test to serve on the Supreme Court. Why? Because the Constitution says so." 

"You and I both know that judges should not be policymakers," he said. "But could it be that one of the reasons these confirmation hearings have become so contentious is because some Americans have given up on the idea of fair and impartial judges who do not pick winners and losers, that they've given up on an independent judiciary? I hope not. Judges should not be unelected super legislators giving their political allies wins they could not secure through the rough and tumble of the political process."

Leahy says Senate shouldn't be pursuing confirmation three weeks before the election

665d ago / 1:57 PM UTC

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee who has served in the Senate through 20 Supreme Court nominations, said the Senate should not be holding a confirmation process three weeks before Election Day. 

“We should not be holding a hearing three weeks from an election, when millions of Americans have already voted," said Leahy, who said that Republicans are also going back on their words from 2016, "contradicting every argument they made about the American people needing a voice."

Leahy, who appeared virtually because of concerns about safety precautions, also said the committee should not be holding the hearings "when it is plainly unsafe to do so," after two members are now emerging from isolation after contracting Covid-19. 

Like other Democrats, Leahy held up a photo of a constituent, a woman who was in a wheelchair because of a rare disease and relies on the Affordable Care Act. He said, "I think of what she's going to lose," if Barrett votes to dismantle the law. 

Grassley defends Barrett's legal background, calls Democratic attacks 'outrageous'

665d ago / 1:42 PM UTC

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, defended Barrett's credentials and legal background in his opening statement. 

"A good judge understands it's not the court's place to rewrite the law as it sees fit. It's not his or her place to let policy, personal or moral principles dictate an outcome of a case," he said. 

He called it "outrageous" that Democrats are suggesting Barrett's confirmation would lead to the demise of the Affordable Care Act and protections for pre-existing conditions. "As a mother of seven, Judge Barrett clearly understands the importance of health care," he said. 

"The nominee should offer no forecast, no hints of how he or she will vote, because that's the role of a judge. That's the place of a judge in our system of government: unbiased, fiercely independent, faithful to the rule of law and a steadfast defender of the Constitution," he said.

'The stakes are extraordinarily high': Feinstein says she wants Barrett to clarify her position on Obamacare

665d ago / 1:27 PM UTC

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said in her opening statement that she hopes Barrett will clarify her position on the Affordable Care Act during the hearings. 

"The stakes are extraordinarily high for the American people," as millions could lose their health care coverage, Feinstein said. Democrats plan to focus on what could happen to Obamacare if Barrett is confirmed since the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a case to strike down the health care law in a few weeks on Nov. 10, she said. 

"The president has promised to appoint justices who will vote to dismantle that law," Feinstein said. 

Feinstein said she hopes Barrett clarifies her stance on the ACA since she was critical of Chief Justice John Roberts' previous 5-4 opinion upholding the law. 

Graham on timing of Barrett confirmation: 'There's nothing unconstitutional about this'

665d ago / 1:18 PM UTC

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., made the case in his opening statement for the Senate to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

He pointed out that the late Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although ideological opposites, were both confirmed overwhelmingly to their seats by the Senate. 

"I don't know what happened between then and now," said Graham, who said there was once a time when someone like Ginsburg was seen by almost everyone as qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, despite having a different philosophy than many Republicans who voted for her.  

Graham touted Barrett's credentials, saying that she is in "a category of excellence."

He acknowledged that no Supreme Court justice has been confirmed in an election year past July, but he said Ginsburg was asked about the timing issue several years ago and she said a president serves for four years, not three. 

"There's nothing unconstitutional about this," he said. 

665d ago / 1:13 PM UTC

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

665d ago / 1:06 PM UTC
Image:
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

665d ago / 1:04 PM UTC

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

665d ago / 12:39 PM UTC
Image: Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett To Be Supreme Court Justice
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

and

665d ago / 10:51 AM UTC

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'

and

665d ago / 10:12 AM UTC

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.

665d ago / 10:11 AM UTC

The stakes are high in the Senate this week

and

665d ago / 10:10 AM UTC

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.