- The second day of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination hearings concluded. Barrett dodged and deflected questions about her views on healthcare, abortion, presidential transfer of power, climate change, Donald Trump’s public statements, and many other issues.
- Democrats reiterated their concerns that Barrett’s confirmation could jeopardize the ACA. “I’m not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” Barrett told the committee. “I’m just here to apply the law.” The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case involving the ACA just one week after the presidential election.
- Kamala Harris – in her prosecutorial style – made the case that Barrett’s views on abortion are clear based on public statements and career record. “I would suggest that we not pretend that we don’t know how this nominee views a women’s right to choose,” said Harris, who ended her questioning time by asking that letters from the NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Planned Parenthood opposing Barrett’s nomination be entered into the record.
- Under intense questioning from Amy Klobuchar, Barrett declined to characterize Roe as a “super-precedent” case. Barrett has said she considers Brown v Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in schools, to be a super-precedent case because it will never be overturned given there are no challenges to it now. “I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates that Roe doesn’t fall in that category,” Barrett said. She added that her characterization does not necessarily mean Roe should be overturned.
- Trump called for a massive coronavirus relief package, as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to vote on a standalone bill for small business loans. “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” Trump said in a tweet.
- The president held a rally for packed-in, maskless supporters in Pennsylvania. Lagging in polls, the president directly appealed to suburban women to “please” vote for him.
The first lady, whose office last week said her Covid-19 symptoms had been mild, has been unseen since her diagnosis. The AP reports:
Mrs. Trump was last seen Sept. 29 accompanying the president to Cleveland for his nationally televised debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Before that trip, she attended a Sept. 26 gathering in the White House Rose Garden that is now believed to have been a “super spreader” event for the virus. The president introduced Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to scores of guests who sat close together, many without face coverings. Several guests later tested positive for COVID-19.
The first lady’s office provided no update Tuesday on her condition. The president’s campaign referred questions to the White House.
A possible upside for the White House in the positive test results is that they overshadowed the release of audio recordings by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former confidante and adviser to the first lady, in which Mrs. Trump was heard complaining about having to decorate the mansion for Christmas. She also was heard downplaying the conditions in which migrant children were housed in U.S. detention centers after the administration separated them from their families at the Mexico border.
Wolkoff detailed her falling out with Mrs. Trump in a new book the White House has dismissed as full of “mistruths and paranoia.” Wolkoff also had confirmed she had Mrs. Trump on tape.
Read the full analysis here.
While it is convention for supreme court nominees to demur on questions about how they might rule on future cases, and not uncommon to avoid exposing firm stances on hot-button political issues – Barrett’s assertion that she has no views on and limited exposure to topics that most Americans have thought through to at least some extent is very difficult to believe.
Second day of Amy Coney Barrett nomination hearing concludes
The hearing resumes at 9am ET tomorrow.
Donald Trump holds a rally in Pennsylvania
“Suburban women, will you please like me?” Trump pleaded. “I saved your damn neighborhood!”
The president won the state by an 0.7-point margin in 2016, and is now trailing his opponent by seven points. White, politically moderate women, who helped him win four years ago, are now defecting to Biden per a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.
As he did at his Florida rally yesterday Trump threatened to kiss “every man and woman” – now that he says recovered from Covid-19.
Harris: let’s ‘not pretend’ that Barrett’s views on abortion are unknown
Harris ended by making a carefully laid-out case that despite Barrett’s equivocation and insistence that she’s unbiased on the issue of reproductive rights – she is far from that.
“I would suggest that we not pretend that we don’t know how this nominee views a women’s right to choose to make her own healthcare decisions,” Harris said. The California senator noted that Ruth Bader Ginsburg – whom Barrett has cited as her model in declining to give any hints on how she’d vote on future cases – was much more forthcoming with her own personal views on a woman’s right to choose.
Harris then read out a list of public statements and evidence that Barrett’s views on abortion – and how she might vote on an abortion case – have already been made clear. She did not ask Barrett questions about Roe v Wade – driving home the point that everyone already knows the answer.
Harris ended by highlighting letters opposing Barrett’s nomination from the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Planned Parenthood.
“I would hope the committee would trust my integrity,” Barrett said, noting, as she’s done throughout, that she’s not made any commitments to rule a certain way on the healthcare law.
The assertion, and implication that she’d somehow completely tuned out the president’s loud, public criterion for judges he’d appoint, is strange – and difficult to believe.
After a long preamble about the importance of healthcare amid the ongoing pandemic, Harris’ first question for Barrett was how many months after Barrett wrote a law review article criticizing John Roberts’ decision upholding the ACA did she receive her nomination for her appeals court position.
“The Affordable Care Act and all of its protections hinge on this seat,” Harris said.
Kamala Harris questions Barrett
“People need help – they need help to pay their rent or mortgages. Parents need help putting food on the table,” she said, criticizing Republicans for rushing through their judicial nominee rather than focusing on passing a coronavirus relief bill.
When New Jersey Senator Cory Booker asked directly and pressed, Barrett initially equivocated before saying she believed in the peaceful transfer of power.
“One of the beauties of America from the beginning of the republic is that we have had peaceful transfers of power,” she said. “I think it is part of the genius of our Constitution and the good faith and goodwill of our people.”
But she declined – when pressed earlier by Vermont’s Patrick Leahy – to say whether she would recuse herself from deciding a presidential election case, after Donald Trump said he needs his nominee confirmed because he thinks his election will end up in court. She dodged – only saying she’d make a decision carefully.
Barrett also declined to say whether the president could pardon himself.
Some 57% of likely voters intend to vote for Biden, while just 40% say they will vote for the incumbent president, the survey shows.
The 17-point gap is even bigger than than 57%-41% margin found by CNN earlier this month. It is just short of the lead in the popular vote that Ronald Reagan enjoyed in his second landslide victory in 1984. Four years later, Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis led George HW Bush by 17 points only to suffer defeat, but that poll was taken in July so Bush had ample time to recover.
With election day just three weeks away and millions of votes already cast, some Republicans fear a rout in the races for the presidency, Senate and House of Representatives. Ed Rollins, who advises a pro-Trump super political action committee, told the New York Times: “The president’s political environment is terrible. It’s an uphill battle.”
Asked by the Times if Trump can still turn things around, Rollins replied: “It’s cooked.”
Opinium’s findings for the Guardian suggest that a hectic month that saw the death of the supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump’s disastrous debate performance and a White House outbreak of coronavirus that infected the president himself swung the pendulum decisively in Democrats’ favour.
Biden has gained five percentage points among undecided voters since September. Democrats also injected momentum into existing supporters, with voters for Biden now more likely to turn out, up from 75% in September to 82% this month.
My colleague Tom McCarthy characterized Truman and Buddy Buttigieg as such on a story about Pete Buttigieg’s effectiveness in doing rhetorical battle on Fox News.
Read Tom’s full story here:
Barrett told California senator Diane Feinstein earlier she “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference.”
The term “is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice,” Hirono said. “It is not.” Barrett’s use of the term raised concerns about how she would rule on LGBTQ+ rights.
Barrett apologized but again refused to answer whether previous cases, including the one that ensured equal marriage rights, were decided correctly.
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