Blog, Vacancy Watch

Vacancy Watch: Monday, October 12, 2020

October 12, 2020

AFJ is committed to keeping you informed about our fight to keep Trump from stealing #OurCourt.

Today was the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. It consisted entirely of opening statements from each of the senators on the committee, plus introductions and Barrett’s own opening statement.

NOTHING SAFE ABOUT IT: Sen. Lindsey Graham claimed that the layout of the hearing room met CDC guidelines, even though every speaker took off their mask to speak, a violation of those guidelines. Sen. Lee attended and spoke without a mask despite having been diagnosed with COVID-19 just ten days ago. Graham himself admitted he hadn’t been tested in more than a week. It’s quite possible the hearings for Barrett’s confirmation will be yet another superspreader event, just like the White House’s nomination announcement.

HEALTH CARE, HEALTH CARE, HEALTH CARE: Senate Democrats flooded the hearing room today with the images of Americans who stand to lose their health care if Amy Coney Barrett helps overturn the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, for example, poignantly highlighted a pair of identical twins — a pitcher and catcher on a softball team — who would face drastically different access to health care simply because of one them has diabetes.

For more examples of Senate Democrats’ powerful statements, follow us on Twitter @AFjustice.

CHASING PHANTOMS: Senate Republicans, in stark contrast, brought up all kinds of strange arguments about Barrett’s religious beliefs (which not a single Democrat mentioned), the validity of the process (despite the illegitimate, unsafe rush), and the poignancy of her personal biography (despite what a clear threat she poses to health care access and reproductive freedom).

PREEXISTING CONDITIONS GASLIGHTING: Sen. Chuck Grassley remarkably seemed to suggest that there’s no reason to believe Amy Coney Barrett poses a threat to the Affordable Care Act and its protections for preexisting conditions because, “As a mother of seven, Judge Barrett clearly understands the importance of health care.” Of course, Republican lawmakers have tried to repeal the ACA dozens of times, three Republican-appointed lower court judges have already kept alive the current challenge to the ACA, and it’s Republican state attorneys general and the Trump administration that are preparing to argue that it should be overturned in its entirety at the Supreme Court—just one week after the election.

THE BIGGEST WHOPPER: One of the most outlandish statements came from Sen. Mike Lee, who claimed that the Supreme Court is “the one branch of the federal government that is not political.” As Vox’s Ian Millhiser explains, “If the Supreme Court were, in fact, above politics, then one would expect Lee’s party to be fairly indifferent to who serves on the federal courts, provided that an individual judicial nominee has the experience, talent, and work ethic necessary to perform well as a federal judge. But, of course, that’s not how Lee’s Republican Party has behaved.”

OPENING DODGE: Barrett seemed to echo the same baseless claim that the Court is not political in her opening remarks, stating, “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the People. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

The first round of questioning begins Tuesday morning. Check back tomorrow afternoon for our analysis.

Make sure to follow AFJ on Twitter @AFJustice and check back for regular updates on the fight for #OurCourt.