Senators Kennedy and Blumenthal Spar over Barrett Nomination

DEMOCRAT CLAIMS REPUBLICANS “BROKE THEIR WORD”

by Sharon Rondeau

Photo: Senate Judiciary Committee

(Oct. 15, 2020) — Shortly before 10:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked to take the floor during a Senate Judiciary Committee executive meeting following three days of questioning of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the passing last month of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Blumenthal made a motion for the committee to vote on Chairman Lindsey Graham’s plan to hold a committee vote on Barrett’s nomination on October 22, claiming that Republicans had “broken their word” when they reportedly pledged not to take a vote on a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential-election year.

Graham asked Blumenthal if he was moving for a roll-call vote at that moment or after each senator has a chance to speak, with Blumenthal responding he favored the latter.

Kennedy asked for time to respond to Blumenthal’s assertion, to which Blumenthal agreed, on the condition that he could conclude his remarks in approximately “one minute.”

After expressing his respect for Blumenthal, which Blumenthal said he appreciated, Kennedy contended that he personally did not make a pledge to his constituents in Louisiana to refrain from voting on a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential-election year.  Kennedy said that the Constitution, which provides that presidential nominations of “Judges of the supreme Court,” is not suspended as a result of a presidential election.

In 2016, after Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, and Republicans, who held the majority then by a razor-thin margin, refused to hold nomination hearings, then-Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) stated that he would take the same position if a similar situation arose under a Republican president, citing the “Biden rule.” However, following the 2018 election, Grassley became chairman of the Finance Committee and Graham assumed the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee.

Earlier in his remarks, Blumenthal opined that Republicans, who hold the Senate by a slightly larger majority, are engaged in a “raw exercise of power” by holding hearings on Barrett’s nomination “because they can.”

Photo: Senate Judiciary Committee

Following Kennedy’s comments, Graham stated that he did not take Blumenthal’s comments “personally.”

Beginning at 9:00 a.m., the executive meeting revealed staunch Democrat opposition to the process by which Barrett was nominated and hearings commenced, while Republicans expressed their confidence in Barrett’s qualifications.  Graham, for his part, stated earlier in the meeting that he could not predict how any future Supreme Court justice will vote on any issue despite having an inkling of their philosophy based on the president who nominated them.

Democrats fear that Barrett will vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare” passed in 2010 and facing litigation since that time.  On two occasions, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. the Supreme Court affirmed the law, a decision with which Barrett has expressed disagreement in the past.

Democrats also expressed concern that Barrett’s confirmation could result in the overturning of Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized “marriage” between same-sex couples.

On November 10, the high court is scheduled to hear oral argument on the constitutionality of the ACA given that the “individual mandate” portion of the bill was nullified by Congress in 2017.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) opined that Barrett will usher in a “new chapter of conservative judicial activism” with “a hard turn to the right.”

Earlier, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) objected to what he said were Barrett’s insufficient responses to a question on her views on “climate change” and other matters.

In 2016, Obama was unable to run again, while Trump is facing re-election on November 3 against Democratic contender Joe Biden.

At 10:59, a roll-call vote on Blumenthal’s motion was quickly taken, with Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, voting “Yes by proxy.”  The motion was defeated, Graham announced.

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