California Senator Kamala Harris blasted Republicans for trying to “jam through” Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett amid a US presidential election where millions of Americans have already cast ballots.
Ms Harris, the vice presidential running mate to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, cast Judge Barrett as “a Supreme Court nominee who will take health care away from millions of people during a deadly pandemic that has already killed more than 214,000 Americans” by repealing the 2010 health care law, commonly known as Obamacare.
“Republicans finally realized that the Affordable Care Act is too popular to repeal in Congress. So now they are planning to bypass the will of the voters and have the Supreme Court do their dirty work,” Ms Harris said on Monday during her opening statement at Ms Barrett’s first day of confirmation hearings.
The Democratic vice presidential nominee appeared remotely over concerns that the hearing room did not meet precautionary Covid-19 protocols.
“This hearing has brought together more than 50 people to sit inside a room for hours while our nation faces a deadly airborne virus,” Ms Harris said.
Ms Harris urged her GOP colleagues not to move forward with the confirmation process, a demand that will likely fall on deaf ears as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to hold final votes on Ms Barrett before the end of the year.
“A clear majority of Americans want whomever wins this election to fill the seat. And my Republican colleagues note that, yes, they are deliberately defying the will of the people and their attempts to rollback the rights and protections provided under the Affordable Care Act,” Ms Harris said.
Democrats throughout the day have harangued their Republican colleagues for moving ahead with the Barrett nomination just days before the 2020 presidential election after refusing to hold hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, more than seven months out from the 2016 election.
Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, went on the record multiple times over the last four years saying he would not conduct hearings to seat a Supreme Court nominee in an election year like he’s doing now.
But on Monday, he defended the Barrett confirmation process as constitutional. He noted that the president has a four-year term, not a three-year term, and it is within any sitting president’s power to appoint a Supreme Court justice with the advice and consent of the sitting Senate.
“Bottom line here is that the Senate is doing its duty constitutionally,” Mr Graham said.
“There have been 19 vacancies filled in election years. Seventeen of the 19 were confirmed to the court when the party of the president and the Senate were the same,” he said to cite historical precedent for Ms Barrett’s confirmation.