Kamala Harris addresses voters warning against Donald Trump's supreme court appointment

McConnell shields Judge Amy Coney Barrett from questions about election outcome as she meets with senators

The Senate majority leader refused to answer if Ms Barrett should recuse herself from election-focused cases

Danielle Zoellner@dani__zoellner
Tuesday 29 September 2020 20:51
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Federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett has travelled to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with senators ahead of her Supreme Court nomination hearings.

The nomination was kicked off with Ms Barrett participating in a three-minute press event with Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, which involved answering no questions from the press.

“We’re pleased today to welcome Judge Barrett to begin the process of advice and consent in the Senate. And if you know she’ll be visiting with members who are interested in talking to her during the course of the next few days,” Mr McConnell said when speaking first.

“We’re glad to have her here and glad to get the process started.”

Then Mr Pence spoke to the room full of reporters and praised the judge for being an “an extraordinary American” who has “a judicial philosophy that will uphold the Constitution of the United States.”

"We believe the Senate has an opportunity here for a fair and respectful consideration," Mr Pence added. "We urge our Democratic colleagues in the Senate to take the opportunity to meet with Judge Barrett, and as the hearing goes forward to provide the kind of respectful hearing the American people expect."

The brief meeting with the press then ended with one reporter asking if Ms Barrett should recuse herself from “any election related cases”, like if the November election were to end up before the Supreme Court. This question was met with no response before reporters were asked to leave the room.

Following the brief press event, Ms Barrett was placed in a room on Capitol Hill on Tuesday where she would remain for the entirety of the day to meet with GOP senators, including Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, and Chuck Grassley.

When meeting with the judge, Mr Grassley told reporters he also would not be answering questions. 

Ms Barrett was not expected to meet with any Democrats on Tuesday after several have publicly stated they would refuse to speak to her ahead of the nomination hearings.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was one who said he would not be meeting with Ms Barrett.

“I am not going to meet with Judge Barrett. Why would I meet with a nominee of such an illegitimate process and one who is determined to get rid of the Affordable Care Act?” he wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal, and Mazie Hirono have all indicated they would also not meet with the president’s nominee.

“This nomination process is illegitimate. I refuse to participate in the further degradation of our democracy and our judiciary,” Ms Gillibrand wrote.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has widened the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats. In 2016, Senate Republicans, who held the majority, refused to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee following the sudden death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, saying at the time that it was too close to a presidential election to consider the pick.

Republicans have said the situation was different for Mr Trump’s pick, despite it being much closer to the election compared to 2016, because they control both the Senate and White House and are frustrated by what happened to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his nomination process.

Mr McConnell vowed for the nomination process to be swift so the Senate can hold a vote before the presidential election on 3 November. Only two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, have indicated they were against a vote before the election, likely ensuring the nomination. 

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