WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - As the first day of Senate confirmation hearings began for Catholic Judge Amy Coney Barrett, one theme quickly became clear among the Democrats: Barrett is a threat to Obamacare.
While Republican members focused on the necessity of a fair hearing for the Catholic judge and rejection of applying religious tests, Democrats — against a backdrop of giant posters of people impacted by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — lamented the potential loss of Americans' healthcare under a future Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., went so far as to call the confirmation hearings a "mad, slapdash rush" with only one goal in mind: to seat Barrett on the High Court in time for the Nov. 10 case challenging the ACA. His constituents, he claimed, see her as "a judicial torpedo" meant to target the ACA.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,raised the specter of ACA being abolished under Barrett's tenure, quoting from one of Barrett's law review articles criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts, who "pushed the ACA beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute." Roberts was the swing vote in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), whose vote allowed the ACA to survive challenge.
Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., accused Republicans of "rushing through a candidate" in order to overturn Obamacare. Similar language was parroted by every Democrat member on the panel, who repeatedly referred to the posters behind them.
Republicans have gone in to the hearings with the memory fresh on their minds of then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 public crucifixion. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham — who said of Kavanaugh's hearings at the time, "This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics" — reminded the panel on Monday of its duty to give Barrett a fair hearing.
Recalling that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by a near-unanimous vote of 96–3, he said, "Those were days that have since passed. I regret that."
But it would not take long before Democrats began lobbing questionable claims, in some cases outright falsehoods.
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar fired the first major salvo by bringing up the debunked Atlanta story that President Trump called fallen soldiers "suckers and losers" — a claim discredited by more than 20 on-the-record sources and eyewitnesses, including Trump critic John Bolton, and whose Atlantic author eventually admitted his anonymous sources may have been mistaken.
Democrats also repeatedly raised the historically inaccurate claim that there is no precedent for nominating someone to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year, with Sen. Whitehouse calling it a "charade" and Klobuchar calling it a "sham." But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reminded the panel that precedent is on the side of Trump, with nearly half of all prior presidents — a total of 22 — naming a nominee during a presidential election year, an event that has happened 29 times.
Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., also called out Democrats for their redefining of the phrase "court packing," which seemed to happen overnight during the weekend, when Joe Biden — who has repeatedly refused to answer the question whether he would pack the Court and add extra seats — accused the Republicans of being the ones who are "packing the court," changing the meaning to imply a rush to fill the High Court vacancy.
"Court packing is not judicial reform," said Sasse. "It is destroying the system."
He said the Democrats' attempt to redefine the phrase is "playing the American people for fools."
Another major inaccuracy was spoken by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who incorrectly said of the GOP, "They want an activist judge, someone who will legislate from the bench," erroneously referring to Barrett's judicial philosophy of originalism as "activism," when it is in fact the exact opposite of judical activism. Blumenthal clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun, author of Roe v. Wade, widely criticized by liberal and conservative legal scholars alike as embodying judicial activism in its reasoning, which some have accused of creating "out of whole cloth" a right to abortion not found in the Constitution.
The hot-button issues of contraception and abortion were not explicitly raised until the statement by Delaware Democrat Chris Coons, who issued an ominous warning that if Barrett is confirmed, the right to contraception guaranteed in Griswold v. Connecticut "may be in danger of being struck down," that cases like Roe v. Wade "may be on the line," and Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that forced legal gay "marriage" onto all 50 states, could be overruled. Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., echoed similar warnings.
"This is what I believe is at stake with this nomination," said Coons. "You will be deciding cases that have real, daily impact on the lives of millions of Americans."
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., hit back, accusing Coons of a thinly veiled attack on Barrett's faith by bringing up cases like Griswold, which is "not live" or currently at issue.
Holding up a stack of newspapers featuring articles speculating on Barrett's faith and personal life, Hawley focused on the Democrats' track record of attacking nominees' faith, making a dig at Feinstein for "picking up the very terminology of anti-Catholic bigotry current in this country a century ago."
Feinstein came under fire in 2017 during her questioning of Barrett for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after she told the Catholic mother of seven, "The dogma lives loudly within you, and that's of concern."
Others he called out for their 2017 comments were Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who asked Barrett what it means to be an "orthodox Catholic," and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hi., who asked Barrett whether she would be a "Catholic judge."
"I guess as opposed to an American judge," Hawley said, "as if you can't be both a devout Catholic and a loyal American citizen."
Hawley also reminded the committee about Kamala Harris' 2018 remarks about Brian Buescher, questioning his fitness for office based on his membership in the Catholic fraternal group Knights of Columbus.
"Let's be clear about what this is," Hawley said. "This is an attempt to broach a new frontier, to set up a new standard. Actually, it's an attempt to bring back an old standard, a standard the Constitution explicitly forbids: a religious test for public office."
Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse also issued a rebuke to Democrats, reminding them that "religious liberty is not an exception" and Americans "don't need the permission of the government" to exercise their faith.
Sasse also made a dig at Feinstein: "We don't have religious tests. This government isn't in the business of deciding whether the dogma lives too loudly in someone."
Kamala Harris begins her skyped in monologue at Amy Coney Barrett hearing by using her time to express alarm that the committee is operating during a global pandemic. (Harris previously had no problem with the committee's hearings during pandemic)— Mollie (@MZHemingway) October 12, 2020
Democrat contender for vice president Kamala Harris avoided the topic of Barrett's faith, instead accusing the GOP of being "reckless" by holding confirmation hearings so soon after Trump's own COVID diagnosis — even though Trump is no longer infectious.
Critics were quick to note that Harris had no problem with the Senate Judiciary Committee conducting business on other occasions.
"Kamala Harris begins her skyped in monologue at Amy Coney Barrett hearing by using her time to express alarm that the committee is operating during a global pandemic," tweeted conservative commentator Mollie Hemingway. "(Harris previously had no problem with the committee's hearings during pandemic)."