The 12 Republican members of the committee unanimously approved Barrett’s nomination on Thursday morning, sending the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. Their 10 Democrat counterparts, however, were absent from the proceedings, having chosen to sit out the vote in protest.
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 22, 2020
Sitting in the place of the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were giant photographs of people said to rely on the Affordable Care Act for their healthcare – former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare bill that was advertised as bringing universal healthcare to the US but fell short of that goal.
Democrats worry Barrett’s vote on the Court will jeopardize the program, which has already been cut back under President Donald Trump, by eliminating its signature “individual mandate” which required Americans to purchase healthcare or face a tax penalty. Barrett has previously argued against the Act, penning an essay in 2017 that declared it unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to take up a case next month that could invalidate the entire policy.
Judiciary Committee head Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) dismissed the Democrats’ protest, stating it was the party’s “choice” to boycott but “we’re not going to allow them to take over the committee.” The committee’s approval clears the way for a full Senate vote on Barrett’s confirmation, scheduled for Monday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) declared on Wednesday that Democrat members of the Judiciary Committee would boycott Barrett’s confirmation vote, a symbolic gesture that would deny Republicans the quorum needed to advance Barrett’s nomination. While it didn’t stop the process, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was “forced” to change the chamber’s rules in order to continue.
The Judiciary Committee normally requires nine members to be present, including two in the minority party, in order to conduct Senate business. However, should Democrats decide to also boycott the full Senate vote, it can proceed normally, as long as all 51 Republican senators are present.
The protesting Democrats believe the vote to confirm the conservative justice has been rushed, citing next month’s election, which many are convinced Trump will lose. Republicans have countered that there are no laws, rules or precedents against confirming a justice under the present circumstances.
Democrats also pointed to Republicans’ stonewalling of Obama’s attempt to confirm Justice Merrick Garland, the Supreme Court nominee he attempted to appoint ahead of the 2016 election. Additionally, Barrett’s appointment would tilt the court’s balance to a six-three conservative majority.
Senate Democrats subjected Barrett to a punishing confirmation process, peppering her with questions about her sexual proclivities and her religion. Their sympathizers on social media went further, suggested the children she had adopted from Haiti were abused or even kidnapped.
Her Catholic faith and refusal to completely rule out overturning Roe vs. Wade – the 1973 ruling that enshrined abortion as a constitutional right – have incensed Democrats, particularly as she would be replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal and lifetime supporter of abortion rights who died last month.
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