Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee noted in his opening remarks on Monday that he really didn’t need to have a committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Although the hearings are a time-honored formality, the growing partisan divide over judicial nominees, along with Democrats’ history of 11th-hour scheming to derail prior GOP judges and the already compressed timeline, had prompted some GOP colleagues to call for him to bypass the hearing phase altogether.
“This is probably not really about persuading each other,” Graham said.
“…But the hearing is a chance for Democrats to dig deep into her philosophy,” he said. “Most importantly it gives you a chance—the American people—to find out about Judge Barrett.”
By most reasonable standards, despite Democrat senators’ efforts not to talk about Barrett or her qualifications at all for much of the hearing’s first day, she came off exceeding the low bar that much of the media had set for her.
Along with Barrett’s own remarks, which made her seem highly relatable, her longtime friend and supervisor, Prof. Patricia O’Hara of the Notre Dame Law School, heaped praise on her professionalism and impartiality in the classroom.
“At the very beginning let me observe as Sherlock Holmes famously observed that what speaks the loudest is the dog that didn’t bark—which is, to date, of every Democrat who’s spoken, we’ve heard virtually not a single word about Judge Barrett,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, while prefacing his remarks.
He and other GOP members said Democrats had resorted to their deflection efforts because there was nothing they could say to undermine Barrett.
And Sen. Mike Crapo pointed out that despite the tone of hysteria in their fearmongering talking-points regarding a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats really didn’t seem in that great of a rush to address it prior to Barrett’s nomination.
“If Senate Democrats were half as concerned as they say about American families’ healthcare, they would not have filibustered a multi-hundred-billion-dollar proposal for more coronavirus relief just a few weeks ago,” he said.
While Graham praised the mostly respectful proceedings—a far cry from the petty disruptions that accompanied those of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018—he roiled the opposition by announcing late Monday that he planned on moving into the next phase of the confirmation on Thursday morning, even though Thursday had been earmarked for committee questions.
That cuts by a full quarter the opportunity that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and others might have to pull off a late surprise.
Feinstein reacted indignantly by claiming it was a breach in tradition.
“Chairman Graham’s announcement that he will hold Judge Barrett’s first committee markup on Thursday morning, before we’ve even finished her hearing, is unprecedented in my time on the committee,” she claimed.
“It’s another example of Republicans ignoring rules and tradition so they can rush this nominee through before the election—and in time to supply a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act,” she said.
Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer—who recently claimed that nothing would be “off the table” in Democrats’ plans to undermine Barrett’s confirmation—reeled at being outmaneuvered by attacking Graham.
“Republicans continue to ignore norms and break promises in an effort to jam through a nominee who puts critical health care protections for 130 million Americans at risk,” he complained.
“By jumping to the next step in the process before Judge Barrett’s hearing is complete, Chairman Graham is showing that even he considers this process to be an illegitimate sham,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Schumer vowed that Democrats would do their best to boycott by refusing to give a quorum to advance the nomination.
Graham’s sly scheduling may ensure that those wishing to be present for the final day of questioning may be obligated to help initiate the committee voting also.