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Two Dueling Realities Collide on Day 1 of Amy Coney Barrett’s Hearing

At first, Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s opening confirmation hearing at the United States Supreme Court not only looked like the Senators were in different courtrooms – some were, in fact, due concerns about COVID-19 – but as if they occupy different political universes. .

In their opening remarks on Monday, each Democratic senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee presented the stakes of Barrett’s confirmation as nothing less than the fate of millions of Americans who could lose access to health insurance if Barrett joins. the High Court and overturned affordable care. Take action in a case that will be heard on November 10.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), quickly set the tone. She spoke of Californian Christina Munro Garcia – pictured in a poster behind Feinstein – who has benefited from ACA protections.

“We can’t afford to go back to those days when Americans could be denied coverage or be billed exorbitant amounts,” Feinstein said. “That’s what’s at stake for many of us, for America, with this nomination.”

And nearly all of the GOP senators on the panel called the confirmation fight nothing less than a referendum on the fate of religious rights and pluralism in America today, citing a handful of remarks from Democrats such as Feinstein, who suggested that Barrett’s Catholic faith might influence him. case law during its confirmation hearing before the federal judiciary in 2017.

Most aggressive was Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who accused Democrats of trying to establish a new “religious test” for lawyers and civil servants. “The model and practice of sectarianism by members of this committee must stop,” he said. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) put it another way: “It’s pretty simple what your opponents do,” she said. “Attacking you as a mother and woman of faith because they cannot attack your qualifications.”

And so, it was five hours in a socially distanced, partially virtual Capitol Hill courtroom, with each 10-minute block of opening statements being a different party’s favorite version of the ongoing political fight.

At times these worlds collided: Republicans, in particular, tried to reconcile their years of opposition to Obamacare with an insistence that the lawyer handpicked by President Trump – a staunch opponent of the law – no wasn’t clear enough that she would hit her. down.

At other times, these worlds did not collide. Democrats were able to unravel the reality of the GOP simply by avoiding any discussion of Barrett’s faith and letting Republicans rely on older commentary and background information intended for the media.

Either way, Monday’s gabfest – dominated by the pontification of 22 senators and very little from the candidate – was useful as a snapshot of each side’s strategy for the week ahead, and as a snapshot. the bitterness of this work.

The last two Supreme Court battles, which cast a shadow over Monday’s hearing, are one of the main reasons. At every turn, Democrats have raised the GOP’s about-face on their 2016 argument to block President Obama’s final choice in the Supreme Court because he was too close to the election. Barrett, meanwhile, could be confirmed days before the Nov. 3 election and was nominated a week after Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away.

“It’s a farce when they say it’s a normal court hearing for a normal Supreme Court candidate,” thundered indignant Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). “There is nothing normal about it.”

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