WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump opted out of this week’s presidential debate, calling the virtual format a “waste of time,” but the Senate’s fervid work to confirm his Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, pushed forward Monday in a partially virtual hearing.
Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she will serve as a justice who “interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written.”
“A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were,” she said in her opening statement.
Democrats fiercely objected to the historic hearing kicking off amid an increasing number of Republicans in Washington testing positive for Covid-19, including President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republican efforts to blot out the federal health care law — and Barrett’s avowed support of that effort — ranked at the top of Democrats' concerns regarding the lifetime appointment nomination.
Democrats accused Republicans of weaponizing the courts to wipe out the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act — after failing to overturn it in Congress — at the worst possible time, during a pandemic that has killed nearly 214,000 Americans.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the law that marked the signature domestic achievement of President Barack Obama's administration just one week after Election Day.
Republicans are in sight of a 6-3 Supreme Court majority with the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But Democrats say Barrett’s rushed nomination to a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land usurps the will of voters, millions of whom are already heading to the polls in several states with early voting.
Never in U.S. history has the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court nominee so close to a presidential election.
Among other complaints about Barrett’s record, Democrats have railed against her views on the Affordable Care Act, Roe v. Wade and LGBT rights.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Monday for Barrett to recuse herself from the health care case should she be confirmed to the high court, saying her “record and previous public statements clearly indicate that she would vote to strike down the ACA and overturn Roe.”
Before joining the Seventh Circuit in 2017, Barrett criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for pushing the Affordable Care Act "beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
Senator Diane Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, opened Monday with a story about one of her constituents in California, Krystyna Munro Garcia, who received life-saving cataract surgery because the health care law does not let insurance providers exclude her preexisting condition.
“We can’t afford to go back to those days when Americans could be denied coverage or charged exorbitant amounts,” Feinstein said. "That’s what’s at stake for many of us, for America, with this nomination."
After Trump elevated Barrett, 48, to the Seventh Circuit, she earned a reputation among Republicans as an originalist who does not legislate from the bench.
“Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,” Barret said Monday after senators made opening statements.
The nominee committed to serve as a justice “fearless of criticism."
But Democrats worry the longtime law professor at Notre Dame is unqualified and will inappropriately advance Trump’s agenda. A devout Catholic and mother of seven, Barrett failed to mention on a Senate questionnaire that she signed a 2006 open letter that called for an end “to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade.”
Republicans accused their Democratic colleagues of attacking Barrett’s faith and family, with Senator Joshua Hawley of Missouri labeling them bigots.