KEY POINTS

  • President Trump has said he wants Barrett on the court in time to rule on any election disputes
  • Republicans want to vote on the confirmation before the presidential election Nov. 3 because if Democrats sweep the White House and Senate, it will be more difficult to install Barrett on the high court
  • A majority of Americans say the next president should fill the seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The fate of many landmark Supreme Court decisions are in the balance ahead of a particularly contentious presidential election.

Republicans see real urgency in getting Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the high court and are chiding Democrats for their efforts to slow the process with the presidential election just weeks away and a pandemic raging across the country.

Four days of hearings opened Monday, the Columbus Day federal holiday. Democrats focused on Barrett as a conservative ideologue who would overturn the Affordable Care Act and weaken abortion rights. Republicans have boasted of Barrett's qualifications as well as defended her Catholic faith.

Video of the proceedings can be seen in the link below. The major news networks — CNN, MSNBC and Fox News — are also showing live coverage.

A mere week after the coming election, the high court is due to hear arguments in a case aimed at overturning the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of the Obama administration and a major target of Republicans and President Donald Trump, although they have yet to articulate a plan with which to replace it despite years of promises.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the ACA on Nov. 10, just a week after the election.

John Pudner, president of the conservative Take Back Our Republic, said it’s not surprising the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to get the process underway just 22 days ahead of Election Day.

“While the Supreme Court closes for Columbus Day, 29 states no longer count Columbus Day as a holiday, and 79% of American students believe it should no longer be celebrated, so I doubt any progressives genuinely have any objection to senators or anyone else working on Columbus Day,” Pudner told International Business Times.

“At this stage, many progressives are looking for any way to push back the timeline for a confirmation, just as conservatives are trying hard to keep it moving.”

Attorney Richard C. Bell, author of “Voting: The Ultimate Act of Resistance,” told IBT that holding the hearing now is “reprehensible,” but, legally, nothing can be done to stop it, calling it a naked power grab just 22 days before the election.

“Very importantly, Trump has told us directly he wants her on the court in time to rule on election cases involving him that may come before the court. That statement comes from the playbook of authoritarians, not leaders of democracies. A lifetime appointment to our highest court deserves more than this sham process,” Bell said.

“This is a very rushed confirmation process which highlights the leadership's concern that after the election it will be politically much more difficult to confirm a Supreme Court nomination from a President who has just lost reelection and with the votes of Senators who may have also just lost,” Associate Professor Sam Nelson, chairman of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Toledo, said in an email.

“I think this is about [Republicans’] fear of losing their White House and Senate majority, not about votes in the ACA case or even President Trump pushing the schedule to have a sixth Republican appointee on the court to hear an election dispute.”

The confirmation hearings may not sway any votes. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., admitted as much at the outset, saying he expects all Republicans to vote for Barrett’s confirmation and all Democrats to vote against it.

From the campaign trail in Ohio, Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Barrett’s confirmation would be a death knell for the ACA.

“This nominee has said she wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. This president wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s keep our eye on the ball. This is about less than one month Americans are going to lose their health insurance,” Biden said.

More than 23 million Americans get their health insurance through the ACA, many as a result of Medicaid expansion, another program Republicans want to gut.

Barrett already is on record as opposing the ACA. She criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for siding with the liberals on the court to keep the program alive in the last go-around.

Barrett’s confirmation would cement the court’s conservative 6-3 majority for a generation. A Pew Research study indicated historically, justices nominated to the court between the ages of 45 and 49 served an average 19.4 years. Barrett, who is 48, would be the youngest on the court.

This week’s hearing comes as polls indicated the public opposes a rush to fill the seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18, her dying wish alleged to be she wanted the next president to replace her.

Washington Post-ABC poll released Monday indicated that 52% favor leaving Ginsburg's seat open until after the election, down from 57% last month. Sixty-two percent said the high court should uphold the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade, an issue that Barrett is expected to side with anti-abortion activists.

Both the ACA and abortion rights were at the heart of Democrats' arguments against Barrett’s confirmation Monday as was Republican hypocrisy for rushing the confirmation less than two months before a presidential election despite having blocked Appellate Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the high court after Antonin Scalia died 200 days before the 2016 election.

Republicans railed against activist judges and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called for a civics lesson on the role of the judiciary. Republicans also argued Barrett’s religious beliefs should be off-limits. But Barrett herself has tied those beliefs to the job of judging.

Barrett, who clerked for Scalia and subscribes to his view of originalism, read an opening statement in which she recounted her life story and affirmed her view that the courts have “a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law” but “are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”