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Health care is focus as Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court hearing opens

Among Republicans, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, dismissed warnings Barrett will undo the Obama-era healthcare law as "outrageous.

Topics
Coronavirus | US Supreme Court | health care

AP  |  Washington 

Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Wikipedia
Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Wikipedia

Senate Democrats branded Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett a threat to Americans' during the pandemic Monday at the start of a fast-tracked hearing that Republicans are confident will end with Barrett's confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day.

In a competing effort to approvingly define the 48-year-old Barrett, who sat silent and wearing a face mask, Republican senators called President Donald Trump's pick a thoughtful judge with impeccable credentials.

Barring a dramatic development, Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm Barrett to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. If she is confirmed quickly she could be on the Supreme Court when it hears the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, a week after the election.

One after another, Democrats sought to tie her nomination to the upcoming court case.

They are trying to get a justice onto the court in time to ensure they can strip away the protections of the Affordable Care Act," said Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice presidential nominee. Harris, speaking from her Senate office because of COVID-19 concerns, also said the confirmation should not go forward so close to the election, especially after millions have voted.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the nomination is a judicial torpedo aimed at the law's protection for people with pre-existing health conditions among its provisions.

The Trump administration wants the court to strike down the entire law popularly known as Obamacare on Nov. 10. Barrett has criticized the court's two earlier major rulings supporting the law.

Among Republicans, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, dismissed warnings Barrett will undo the Obama-era healthcare law as outrageous. Trump himself seemed to be watching, tweeting several times about the hearing.

In one message, he tweeted that he'd have a FAR BETTER plan, with lower costs and protections for pre-existing conditions. But he has not, as yet, discussed an actual plan.

Republicans also warned against making Barrett's Catholicism an issue in the confirmation debate, especially in regard to her stance on abortion, with Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri lambasting what he called a pattern and practice of religious bigotry by Democrats.

However, Democratic senators made clear in advance of the hearing that they didn't plan to question the judge on the specifics of her religious faith.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, also a practicing Catholic, told reporters ahead of a campaign trip to Ohio that he doesn't think there's any question about her faith.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, meeting on a federal holiday, kicked off four days of statements and testimony in an environment that has been altered by the pandemic. Some senators were taking part remotely, and the hearing room itself was arranged with health concerns in mind.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., opened the hearing acknowledging the COVID problem in America is real." But he said, We do have a country that needs to move forward safely. Graham acknowledged the obvious: This is going to be a long, contentious week.

Protesters rallied outside the Senate buildings with the hearing room largely closed to the public. Capitol Police said 22 people were arrested and charged on suspicion of crowding, obstructing or other violations.

Barrett, a federal appeals court judge, was to tell senators that she is forever grateful for Ginsburg's trailblazing path as a woman.

But she is resolved to maintain the perspective of her own mentor, the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and apply the law as written, according to her prepared opening remarks for the hearings.

Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life, Barrett says in the remarks, which The Associated Press obtained. Republicans are moving at a breakneck pace to seat Barrett before the Nov. 3 election to secure Trump's pick, which would put her on the bench for any election-related challenges.

Democrats are trying in vain to delay the fast-track confirmation by raising fresh concerns about the safety of meeting during the pandemic after two GOP senators on the panel tested positive for the novel

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of those who tested positive, was in the hearing room Monday after his spokesman said he was symptom-free. The other affected senator, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, was participating remotely, though he too is symptom-free, his spokesman said. Both tested positive 10 days ago.

Trump chose Barrett after the death last month of Ginsburg, a liberal icon. It's the opportunity to entrench a conservative majority on the court for years to come with his third justice.

Outside groups are pushing Democrats to make a strong case against what they call an illegitimate confirmation, when people are already voting in some states, saying the winner of the presidency should make the pick. No Supreme Court justice has ever been confirmed so close to a presidential contest.

The country will get an extended look at Barrett over the next three days in hearings like none other during the heated election environment and the pandemic limiting public access.

Faith and family punctuate her testimony, and she said would bring a few new perspectives as the first mother of school-age children on the nine-member court.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Tue, October 13 2020. 00:06 IST
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