Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett introduced herself to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon, vowing to apply the law “as written” and telling lawmakers she believed courts were not “designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”

“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people,” Barrett said in her opening statement. “The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

Earlier in the day, senators clashed over the nominee. Democrats stuck to a tight script, telling personal stories about constituents who benefited from the Affordable Care Act and warning that Barrett’s ascendance to the high court could spell the end for the landmark health-care law. Republicans called on Democrats to focus on what they said were Barrett’s exceptional qualifications for the job, not how she might rule on key cases.

The hearings come 22 days before the election, with Senate Republicans intent on installing the conservative judge on the court.

If confirmed, Barrett would replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Republicans defended their decision to move swiftly to confirm Barrett, saying the situation was different than 2016, when GOP lawmakers blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland.
  • Barrett is expected to pledge in her opening remarks that she will remove politics from her legal reasoning as a future justice, stressing that “policy decisions” need to be made by Congress and the White House, not the courts.
  • A slight majority of American voters oppose holding confirmation hearings now, although opposition has eased since Trump announced his choice to replace Ginsburg, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
  • More than a dozen protesters calling on senators to reject Barrett’s confirmation were arrested Monday morning moments before the hearing began. About 8:45 a.m., anti-Barrett protesters were handcuffed and removed from the doorway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where a sit-in was underway.
  • Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, echoed the health-care message of other Senate Democrats and warned that confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court would precipitate the demise of the Affordable Care Act.
October 12, 2020 at 3:57 PM EDT
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GOP senators defend Barrett, reject assumption she would vote to gut Obamacare

By Seung Min Kim

After the hearing, Republicans tried to deflect the Democrats’ rigid focus on the Affordable Care Act and defended Barrett from the assumption that she would be an automatic vote in court to dismantle Obamacare.

“Her job will be to talk about the law and how you would apply the law to any litigation — whether it be guns, health care, abortion, campaign finance,” Graham told reporters. “I think she’ll do a … good job of understanding the role of a judge is different from that of us.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the former chairman of the committee, accused Democrats of trying to scare voters about the prospect of key health-care protections being eradicated through the courts, particularly if Barrett were confirmed.

“It ain’t gonna work ‘cause the American people know that Barrett is qualified to be on the court,” Grassley said.

October 12, 2020 at 3:55 PM EDT
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Democrats cast Barrett as a threat to the health-care law and insurance for millions of Americans

By Seung Min Kim

Democrats believe their most effective political play is to frame the battle over Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a fight over health care, knowing they have little power to halt her confirmation before Nov. 3.

“We do not have some secret, clever procedural way to stop this sham. Let’s be honest,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said at a post-hearing news conference with other Democratic senators. “And as good as we are, it’s probably not going to be some brilliant cross-examination that is going to change the trajectory of this nomination. But there is one thing that will, and that is the people of this country. That is them voting.”

Democrats also dismissed efforts by Republicans to preemptively defend Barrett from attacks on her religious beliefs. No Democratic senator referred to the nominee’s Catholic faith in opening statements on Monday, and none plans to do so in questioning later this week.

“Did you hear one of us raise that issue?” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) asked. “We have taken an oath to the Constitution, which says no religious test. Enough said.”

October 12, 2020 at 3:52 PM EDT
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Barrett’s writings criticized Chief Justice Roberts in a major Affordable Care Act decision

By Amy Goldstein

Three years before she sat in a Senate hearing room as a Supreme Court nominee, Barrett disparaged the legal reasoning of the nation’s chief justice when he wrote the majority opinion in a major case that upheld the Affordable Care Act.

In an essay published in a journal of Notre Dame Law School, where Barrett was a professor, Barrett contended that judges should respect the text of statutes and that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. pushed the health-care law “beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”

In the 2012 case, the first time the high court considered the constitutionality of the 2010 law that reshaped much of the U.S. health-care system, ACA opponents argued that Congress had overstepped its bounds of the Commerce Clause when it included a tax penalty for people who disregarded the law’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance. Roberts wrote that this part of the law fell within Congress’s legitimate taxing authority.

The court majority, Barrett wrote in her 2017 essay, “expresses a commitment to judicial restraint by creatively interpreting ostensibly clear statutory text.”

The Supreme Court upheld the ACA on different grounds in 2015. It is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a third case challenging the law on Nov. 10, a week after the November elections.

October 12, 2020 at 2:26 PM EDT
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Barrett introduces herself to Judiciary Committee

By Seung Min Kim

Barrett made her formal introduction before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, pledging to be a justice who will apply the law “as written” and paying tribute to justices across the ideological spectrum who came before her: Justices Antonin Scalia, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ginsburg.

Barrett hewed close to her prepared remarks, which were made public on Sunday, in which she stressed her philosophy that courts were not a place where every right or wrong in society should be corrected.

“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people,” Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

She noted that Scalia — for whom she clerked — believed that a judge must apply the law as written and not as he or she wished it were.

“It was the content of Justice Scalia’s reasoning that shaped me,” Barrett said.

As for her female predecessors, Barrett praised O’Connor — the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court — as a “model of grace and dignity” and paid tribute to Ginsburg’s storied career.

“I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place,” Barrett said. “I will be forever grateful for the path she marked and the life she led.”

She told the committee that a Supreme Court seat was “not a position I had sought out” and that she “thought carefully” before accepting the nomination. Senate documents show she accepted it Sept. 21, three days after Ginsburg’s death.

Barrett also nodded to her family, sitting behind her except for her youngest child, Benjamin, who is staying with friends. Earlier Monday, Benjamin was calling out the names of his siblings as he saw them on television, Barrett said.

“The confirmation process — and the work of serving on the court if I am confirmed — requires sacrifices, particularly from my family,” Barrett said. “I chose to accept the nomination because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the place of the Supreme Court in our nation.”

October 12, 2020 at 2:13 PM EDT
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Graham says room is compliant with CDC guidelines

By Rachael Bade

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) took a few minutes during the hearing to submit into the record a letter from the Architect of the Capitol saying the room for the hearing was CDC compliant after Democrats chided the GOP for pushing ahead during the pandemic without proper precautions.

Graham said he was tested a week ago Friday after brief contact with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who recently tested positive but whose doctor said he was cleared to return to work. He was in the hearing in person on Monday.

“I made a decision to try to make the room as safe as possible, but to come to work,” Graham said. “Millions of Americans are going to work today. Somebody may have tested positive in a restaurant, military unit, fire department or police department. You make it as safe as possible. You manage the risk and you go to work.”

Democrats have argued that lawmakers should have been tested for coronavirus before the hearing as a precaution. Graham said that was not necessary.

“I’m not going to be told to be tested by political opponents,” Graham said. “I’m going to be tested as an individual when the CDC requires it. I think we can safely conduct this hearing.”

October 12, 2020 at 1:35 PM EDT
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Harris highlights health care, Ginsburg in opening statement

By Seung Min Kim

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, echoed the health-care message of other Senate Democrats and warned that confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court would precipitate the demise of the Affordable Care Act.

Like the other Democrats who spoke before her, Harris in her opening remarks told the story of a constituent who has benefited from the protections of the 2010 health-care law: an 11-year-old girl named Myka from Southern California, who has a congenital heart defect and has to see multiple specialists during the year.

Harris argued that because Republicans have failed legislatively to repeal the increasingly popular Affordable Care Act, “now they are trying to bypass the will of the voters and have the Supreme Court do their dirty work.” The justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in a high-profile Obamacare case on Nov. 10.

“They are trying to get a justice onto the court in time to ensure they can strip away the protections in the Affordable Care Act,” Harris said in her opening remarks. “And if they succeed, it will result in millions of people losing access to health care at the worst possible time in the middle of a pandemic.”

In her prepared remarks, Harris also cited the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, praising her as someone who “devoted her life to fight for equal justice.” As she hailed Ginsburg and her legacy, the children’s book “I Dissent” about the late justice was displayed behind her.

“By replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone who will undo her legacy, President Trump is attempting to roll back Americans’ rights for decades to come,” Harris said.

Harris was appearing remotely from her office in the Hart Senate Office Building, claiming that Republicans did not take sufficient public-health safeguards to hold such in-person proceedings during a pandemic.

October 12, 2020 at 1:14 PM EDT
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Booker says Barrett will put abortion access at risk

By Ann Marimow

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was the first senator to talk at length Monday about the possibility that Barrett’s confirmation could lead the court to overturn the landmark abortion rights decision in Roe v. Wade.

Booker warned that Barrett’s presence on the Supreme Court would result in more restrictions on abortion access, particularly for women of color and those living in rural areas.

These women will be “denied the ability to be able to make decisions about their own bodies,” he said.

“They can’t just pack up and leave if abortion is restricted or criminalized.”

Based on her academic writings, personal beliefs and rulings as a judge, both liberals and conservatives believe that Barrett would support restricting, if not outright overturning, the 1973 decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) defended Barrett’s record and emphasized that she would not “legislate from the bench.”

He called concerns from Democrats like Booker about abortion rights the “tired, worn-out argument” that is made “every time a Republican president nominates a candidate for the bench.”

October 12, 2020 at 12:48 PM EDT
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Meadows refuses to speak to reporters after being asked to keep his mask on

By John Wagner

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refused to answer questions Monday from reporters outside the Senate room where Barrett’s confirmation hearing is taking place after he was asked to keep his mask on.

Video of the episode shows that Meadows initially took a few steps back from reporters, saying, “This way I can take this off,” as he started to remove his black mask.

“I’m more than 10 feet away,” he said as a CNN reporter objected.

Meadows then walked away, saying, “I’m not going to talk through a mask.”

Meadows has been overseeing protocols at the White House as it attempts to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected several key staffers and the president.

October 12, 2020 at 12:02 PM EDT
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Sen. Mike Lee, who tested positive for coronavirus 10 days ago, speaks at hearing without a mask

By Karoun Demirjian

When Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) removed his mask to speak at Barrett’s hearing, it was that act — more than his words — that resonated across the room.

Lee announced 10 days ago that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and although he had said he has been cleared by a doctor, he still has not produced a negative coronavirus test.

Lee’s presence was all the more striking because of the room’s absences. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) appeared remotely — because he self-quarantined after being exposed to Lee. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus on the same day as Lee, also tuned in to the hearing via video from home.

How widely the coronavirus has affected the Republican ranks of the Judiciary Committee is an open question. Judiciary Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has refused to take a coronavirus test, arguing that he doesn’t have to because he was cleared by the attending physician of the Capitol, Brian P. Monahan, despite his exposure to Lee within days of that senator’s positive diagnosis.

Lee’s letter from Monahan said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend repeat testing in the absence of a fever.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) expressed panel Democrats’ alarm about the situation Monday morning.

“I do not know who has been tested, who should be tested, who is a danger, what contact tracing has been done on infected and exposed senators and staff,” Whitehouse said. “Nothing. The whole thing, just like Trump, is an irresponsible botch.”

Graham offered only a passing quip about Lee’s health.

“Senator Lee’s enthusiasm for the dormant Commerce Clause convinces me you’ve made a full recovery,” he said after Lee’s opening statement.

October 12, 2020 at 11:32 AM EDT
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Trump complains Democrats are getting too much time for opening statements

By John Wagner

The president complained Monday that Democrats are being given too much time for opening statements at the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, urging Republicans to move the nomination more quickly and turn their attention to coronavirus economic relief legislation.

“The Republicans are giving the Democrats a great deal of time, which is not mandated, to make their self serving statements relative to our great new future Supreme Court Justice,” Trump tweeted. “Personally, I would pull back, approve, and go for STIMULUS for the people!!!”

The format of the hearing, which provides members 10 minutes for opening statements, is the same as previous hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominees. Democrats have argued that the entire hearing is being rushed, as Trump seeks confirmation of Barrett before the election.

The White House has altered course several times in recent weeks in stimulus negotiations.

In another pivot Sunday, the president’s aides pushed for immediate action on a narrow measure after the administration’s $1.8 trillion proposal was rebuffed by members of both parties.

October 12, 2020 at 11:31 AM EDT
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Biden says Barrett’s faith should not be an issue, that senators should focus on health care

By John Wagner

In a brief exchange with reporters Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Barrett’s Catholic faith should not be an issue at her confirmation hearing and that senators should focus on the potential that she would derail the Affordable Care Act, echoing arguments of Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee.

“No, faith should not be considered,” Biden told reporters before boarding his plane in Delaware en route to Florida. “No one’s faith should be questioned.”

“But I’ll tell you what. We’re already in the midst of a real fight here,” Biden said, arguing that Trump is intent on using the court to dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law.

“This nominee said she wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said. “The president wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.”

The court is set to a hear oral arguments on a major case on the fate of the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10.

No Democrat on the committee said anything about Barrett’s religion, but that didn’t stop some Republicans from accusing Democrats of establishing a religious test and showing bias against Catholics.

"When you tell somebody that they’re too Catholic to be on the bench, when you tell them they’re going to be a Catholic judge, not an American judge, that’s bigotry,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

He added: “She is a Catholic. Sixty-five million Americans are Catholic.”

Biden is Catholic.

October 12, 2020 at 11:09 AM EDT
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Protesters arrested in D.C. outside Barrett hearing

By Marissa Lang

More than a dozen protesters calling on senators to reject Barrett’s confirmation were arrested Monday morning moments before the hearing began.

Unlike in past years, the public was not allowed to watch the proceedings in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. Demonstrators instead took their dissent to the entrances of Senate office buildings and the marble steps of the Supreme Court.

About 8:45 a.m., anti-Barrett protesters were handcuffed and removed from the doorway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where a sit-in was underway.

October 12, 2020 at 11:07 AM EDT
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Sen. Cruz defends Barrett, GOP’s decision to move quickly to confirm her

By Rachael Bade

Sen. Ted Cruz, a former Supreme Court litigator, defended Barrett and the GOP’s move to quickly confirm her, arguing that the situations between 2016 and now are completely different.

While Democrats have lambasted Trump and the GOP for moving to confirm Barrett amid an election year, Cruz (R-Tex.) noted that Democrats have said little about their nominee’s credentials.

“As Sherlock Holmes famously observed, ‘What speaks the loudest is the dog that didn’t bark,’ ” he said, noting that Barrett has received stellar marks from the American Bar Association.

Cruz also took umbrage with Democrats calling the GOP hypocritical for advancing her while refusing to give President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing in 2016. He said that of the 29 times that there has been a Supreme Court vacancy during an election year, a president has always nominated someone. And of the 19 that occurred while the Senate and the White House were controlled by the same party, 17 were confirmed that year.

In the remaining 10 instances, where the White House and the Senate were controlled by different parties, he said, only two were confirmed.

“History is clear,” he said, pushing back against the Democrats’ charge of hypocrisy. “The framers of the Constitution deliberately set up a system of checks and balances so that nobody can become a Supreme Court nominee without both the president and the Senate. Each was assigned to check the other. That system of checks and balances limits power ultimately and protects the voters. And indeed, the voters made a clear choice.”

October 12, 2020 at 11:07 AM EDT
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Klobuchar criticizes Trump for refusing to say he will accept election results

By Ann Marimow

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) criticized Trump for refusing to say he will accept the results of the upcoming presidential contest. The short timeline to confirm Barrett, she said, was designed to get Trump’s nominee on the Supreme Court ahead of the election.

Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power, Klobuchar said.

“Every president does that,” she said. “Not this guy.”

Klobuchar warned that Trump’s push to quickly confirm Barrett is “putting the court in place to look at the ballot.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) went further, calling on Barrett not to participate in potential cases before the Supreme Court involving the presidential election.

“Your participation in any case involving Donald Trump’s election would immediately do explosive, enduring harm to the court’s legitimacy and your own credibility,” Blumenthal said. “You must recuse yourself.”

Even as Klobuchar conceded that Democrats are unlikely to be able to block Barrett’s confirmation, she urged Americans watching the hearings to use their political power to pressure Republicans.

“This isn’t Donald Trump’s country. It is yours,” she said. “This shouldn’t be Donald Trump’s judge; it should be yours.”