The hearings to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court are set to begin this coming Monday. Yes, the election is less than four weeks away. Yes, people have already started voting; and yes, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to give Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing with over 200 days to go to the election. And yet, still, Barrett’s hearings are scheduled to begin on Monday.
Democratic Senators are expected to participate in the process, not reject it outright. They are also likely to focus on healthcare, since the Supreme Court could rule this autumn whether to kill the Affordable Care Act, and Barrett previously said that she disagreed with a decision by Chief Justice John Roberts to let the Act live another day. Many American voters support keeping the Affordable Care Act, but also support letting the next president fill the seat.
In contrast, Democrats are expected to stay away from Barrett’s faith, and presumably, from her membership of the conservative Catholic group People of Praise. One Republican narrative surrounding Barrett’s nomination was that Democrats are opposed to her because she is Catholic (concerns about past judicial decisions against a woman’s right to choose and membership in a conservative group have been painted as antagonism toward Catholics and people of faith). Yet Biden is a practising Catholic, as are five of the eight justices currently on the bench.
The hearings wll be conducted virtually, since several Republican Senators have Covid-19. The White House event at which Barrett’s nomination was announced, which was conducted in part outside and in part inside, appears to have been something of a super spreader gathering. The virtual nature of the hearings is a reminder of that, but also of the fact the United States is currently in a pandemic and there is, at present, no deal for a stimulus that might help the American people economically survive it.
Earlier this week, Trump said that stimulus talks were off the table. He now says they are back on. Unwavering throughout, however, has been the president’s commitment to getting Amy Coney Barrett on the bench as quickly as possible.