Amy Coney Barrett testifies in Senate hearing: US election news

  • The four-day Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has begun.
  • Trump will host his first campaign event on Monday in Florida since announcing he had tested positive for coronavirus on October 2.
  • Joe Biden will campaign in Ohio on Monday.
  • Early voting begins in Georgia, a state that has become an increasing battleground, with 22 days left until the November 3 election.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.

Monday, October 12:

15:00 ET – Biden negative for COVID-19

Biden, who was campaigning in Ohio on Monday, has again tested negative for COVID-19, his campaign said in a brief statement.

President Donald Trump, who announced on October 2 that he had tested positive for coronavirus, was set to hold his first rally since his diagnosis on Monday after saying he was no longer infectious.

14:30 ET – Barrett testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee

Supreme Court nominee  Barrett declared Monday that Americans “deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written,” encapsulating her conservative approach to the law that has Republicans excited about the prospect of her taking the place of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day.

Barrett spoke about her judicial philosophy, her experience and her large family at the end of the first day of her fast-tracked confirmation hearings that Senate Democrats are using to try and brand her a threat to Americans’ health care during the coronavirus pandemic.

After sitting in silence through nearly four hours of opening statements from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the 48-year-old federal appeals court judge laid out her approach to the bench, which she has likened to that of her conservative mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society. But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,” Barrett said in a statement she delivered after removing the protective mask she wore most of the day.

“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.”

14:15 ET – American Bar Association says Barrett well qualified

The American Bar Association has said Barrett is well qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the association said it has completed its evaluation of the professional qualifications of President Donald Trump’s choice to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The letter said a majority of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary determined that Barrett is “Well Qualified.” A minority is of the opinion Barrett is “Qualified” to serve.

The group said its evaluation is based on “the qualities of integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament”. Republicans want Barrett confirmed before the presidential election.

14:00 ET – Harris calls Republican decision to move forward with confirmation hearing amid coronavirus ‘reckless’

Harris, speaking at the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing of Barrett, has said the decision to proceed with Barrett’s confirmation amid the coronavirus pandemic is “reckless”.

Harris, speaking remotely, noted that the hearing brought together 50 people to sit inside for four hours for the hearing, as well as requiring the participation of Capitol Hill janitorial staff, Congressional aide and Capitol police.

The vice presidential candidate also continued Democrats’ warnings that Barrett’s confirmation would threaten the Affordable Care Act.

She broadened that message, saying: “Every American must understand that with this nomination equal justice under law is at stake. More voting rights are at stake, workers rights are at stake, consumer rights are at stake, the right to a safe and legal abortion is at stake, and holding corporations accountable is at stake.”

13:30 ET – Early voting begins in Georgia, a possible 2020 battleground

Republicans have dominated Georgia presidential elections for a generation, but Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 bid for the White House has made this Southern GOP stronghold competitive for the first time in nearly 30 years.

While Republican Donald Trump glided to victory in Georgia four years ago, support for Biden has rapidly increased in the weeks before Election Day.

The Real Clear Politics polling average shows the candidates statistically tied in the state, and a Quinnipiac University Poll of likely Georgia voters conducted in late September, prior to the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis, found Biden leading Trump by three percentage points, just outside the survey’s margin of error. In the poll, 50 percent of voters said they would support Biden and 47 percent voiced an intention to vote for Trump.

That should set off alarm bells in the Trump campaign, which carried Georgia by a safe five percentage points against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Read more here.

13:00 ET – In first day of hearings, Democrats focus on health care

The first day of confirmation hearings for Barrett saw Democrats portray the judge as threat to Americans’ health care during the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm Barrett to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, barring major developments. With little ability to stop the confirmation, Democrats appear to have chosen a tactic of emphasising Barrett’s perceived threat to the Affordable Care Act, a challenge to which will be heard by the Supreme Court on November 10, to shore up support among the electorate.

“Health care coverage for millions of Americans is at stake with this nomination,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, said the nomination is a “judicial torpedo aimed” at the law’s protection for people with pre-existing health conditions among its provisions.

Among Republicans, Senator Chuck Grassley dismissed warnings Barrett will undo the Obama-era healthcare law as “outrageous”. Barrett, in a 2017 law review article, had criticised a previous Supreme Court ruling that upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care ACt

12:30 ET – Des Moines mayor ‘worried’ about planned Trump rally

The mayor of Des Moines, Iowa has expressed concern over a planned Trump rally in the city on Wednesday, saying it could spread the coronavirus.

“Absolutely I’m worried about the spread. We don’t want a super-spread event here in Des Moines,” Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie told the Des Moines register. “We urge everyone who would attend this event to wear a mask and social distance as best they can, and to stay safe and healthy.”

While Des Moines has a mask mandate, the rally will be held at the Iowa Air National Guard facility, which is not under city control.

A state Republican National Committee spokesman told the newspaper that masks and social distancing would be encouraged at the event, although congregants, and the president, have eschewed such restrictions at past events.

12:00 ET – Democratic Senator calls for Barrett to recuse herself from election outcome rulings

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal says Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett must recuse herself from any cases involving Trump and the outcome of the November 3 election.

The Connecticut senator says Barrett’s participation in election cases would do “explosive, enduring harm to the court’s legitimacy” and to her credibility.

Blumenthal told Trump’s nominee on Monday: “You must recuse yourself.”

Democrats are warning Republicans that the American public is not on their side rushing Trump’s nominee to confirmation while early voting is underway. Democrats say the winner of the presidential election should choose the nominee for the seat made vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

11:45 ET – Former Democratic candidate Klobuchar says confirmation shows ‘messed up priorities’ of Republican party

Former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar used her opening statement in the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to blast President Trump and Senate Republican’s failure to address the coronavirus crisis facing the country.

“We cannot divorce this nominee and her views from the election we are in. We didn’t choose to do this now, to plop a Supreme Court nomination hearing in the middle of an election. They did,” Klobuchar said.

“This hearing is a sham. It shows real messed up priorities from the Republican Party,” Klobuchar said, calling on Americans to voice their opposition to Barrett’s confirmation before the election.

Instead of working on legislation to provide coronavirus relief for Americans, the Senate is jamming through a Supreme Court nominee who will vote against the Affordable Care Act, effectively taking away health insurance from millions, Klobuchar said.

11:15 ET – Klobuchar references Barrett’s White House nomination ceremony where coronavirus spread

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, in her opening statements on the first day of Barrett’s confirmation hearing has referenced the White House nomination ceremony where the coronavirus apparently said.

Klobuchar said Trump had been “reckless” for hosting the Rose Garden ceremony, which same before a cluster of infection at the White House, which included the president, emerged.

The Senator said Trump was “packing people in without masks for your nomination party, Judge Barrett. Thirty-five people got sick, the President himself ends up in the hospital, and when he leaves Walter Reed [hospital] still contagious he defiantly takes off his mask and walks into the White House, and then he lies and says the virus will magically go away.”

So far during the hearings, Democrats, who have little power to stop the confirmation, have sought to gain political support, condemning Trump’s leadership and Republicans’ plan to confirm his Supreme Court nominee before the election.

11:00 ET – Biden says Senate Democrats should make health care focus of hearings, not faith

Biden has said Senate Democrats should make health care the focus of Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, not the conservative judge’s Catholic faith.

Biden, who is also a practicing Catholic, told reporters ahead of a campaign trip to Ohio on Monday he doesn’t think “there’s any question about her faith”.

Biden says the more important matter is that “this nominee says she wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act”.

Before Barrett was a federal judge, she questioned the reasoning behind Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion upholding the 2010 health care law. The law is being challenged again, with oral arguments set for November 10, a week after the election.

10:45 ET – Harris says Republicans trying to “ram through” Supreme Court nomination

Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris is criticising Republicans for trying to “ram through” Supreme Court nominee Barrett while Americans are voting in the presidential election.

The California senator said on Monday that running mate Biden has “been really clear” and she has been “really clear.” She tells reporters on Capitol Hill, “We are 22 days away from an election, and people are voting right now.”

Harris said Republicans are “trying to push through, ram through, a Supreme Court justice for a lifetime appointment while almost 7 million people have already voted.”

Harris is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee but will be attending the hearing remotely because of COVID-19 concerns.

10:30 – Trump doubles down on out-of-context Fauci comment in ad

Trump doubled down on his campaign’s use of comments from Dr Anthony Fauci, a lead member of the president’s coronavirus task force, even after Fauci said the comments were taken out of context.

An ad released by the Trump campaign appears to show Fauci praising Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci, on Sunday, said the March statements were taken out of context, and he was in fact praising his own work that of the tast force when he said: “I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more”.

Trump on Monday countered the comments were “indeed Dr Fauci’s own words” while retweeting his campaign spokesperson, who said Fauci’s words had been used accurately.

10:15 ET –  Trump calls group of protestors ‘animals’

Trump blasted a group of protestors as “animals” on Monday, while urging law enforcement to crack down on demonstrations that included the destruction of property.

“Put these animals in jail, now,” Trump said, in a retweet of a video that said it showed a statue being torn down in Portland.

The president has tried to depict himself as a leader of law and order, following a summer that saw sustained protests against police brutality and racism. Some of the protests at times turned violent.

Trump will hold a rally in Sanford, Florida on Monday, his first return to the campaign trail since he contracted the coronavirus, as he pushes for a come-from-behind win in November.

10:00 ET – Federal judge upholds Minnesota’s extended ballot counting

A federal judge has upheld a Minnesota state court agreement that allows counting of absentee ballots received up to seven days after Election Day.

Republicans had asked US District Judge Nancy Brasel to block the seven-day extension that Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon agreed to in state court after a citizens’ rights group cited concerns about voter safety due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ballots still must be postmarked by Election Day to be counted.

But Brasel ruled late Sunday night that the plaintiffs in the case — a pair of Republicans serving as electors in the presidential election — don’t have standing and denied their motion for a preliminary injunction.

Previously, ballots had to be received by 8 PM on Election Day — but a consent decree in the state case allowed ballots postmarked on or before Election Day to be counted if they were received within the following seven days.

09:45 ET – Feinstein underscores threat to Affordable Care Act in opening statements

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, lamented the Republican push to confirm Barrett and argued the process of filing the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be left until after the election.

Republicans had argued when former Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland in the last year of his presidency that “Americans should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court”, Feinstein said. The same principle should apply today, she said.

Feinstein warned the push to confirm Barrett is part of the Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

“Clearly the effort to dismantle the law continues and they are asking the Supreme Court to strike down [the Affordable Care Act],” she said. “If Judge Barrett is confirmed, Americans stand to lose the benefits that the ACA provides.”

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on November 10, one week after the election, in a suit brought by the Trump administration challenging the constitutionality of the ACA.

09:30 ET – Committee chairman Graham begins hearing, defends election-season confirmation

Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee has begun the Judiciary Committee hearing, defending the Republican drive to confirm Barrett in the midst of an election.

“There is nothing unconstitutional about this process,” Graham said, acknowledging the share partisan divide over Barrett’s confirmation.

“We’re probably not going to persuade anyone … all the Republicans will vote ‘yes’ and Democrats will vote ‘no’,” Graham said.

“Most importantly,” Graham said of the hearing, “it gives you a chance, the American people, to find out about judge Barrett.”

09:00 ET – Amy Coney Barrett’s prepared statements

Trump’s pick for a US Supreme Court vacancy said she will rule based on the law, not her personal views, in prepared remarks issued on Sunday ahead of her Senate confirmation hearing this week.

Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative appeals court judge, said that in her current job she has “done my utmost to reach the result required by the law, whatever my own preferences might be”.

Barrett said in the statement that it will be an “honor of a lifetime” to serve alongside the current eight justices and explained how she approaches cases.

“When I write an opinion resolving a case, I read every word from the perspective of the losing party. I ask myself how would I view the decision if one of my children was the party I was ruling against,” she wrote.

Read here more.

08:30 ET – What to expect at Amy Coney Barrett hearing

Supreme Court nominee Barrett will face the Senate Judiciary Committee in a four-day hearing starting on Monday that kick-starts a confirmation process that Republicans hope to complete before the November 3 elections.

The truncated proceedings, which follow the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, leave little room for unexpected developments with only 22 days until the election.

If confirmed, Barrett, who was appointed to an appellate court judgeship by Trump in 2017, will tip the balance on the top US court to a 6-3 conservative majority. That balance could have a wide-ranging effect on possible rulings related to the presidential election, an upcoming case involving the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and a range of social issues including abortion, guns, and LGBTQ rights.

Read more about what to expect at the hearing here.


Read all the updates from Friday, (October 9) here.

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