The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally set a panel vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court for Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Democrats protested the swift action less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 election but are powerless to stop it. “We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters in Kentucky. He said the full Senate will begin debate on the nominee on Oct. 23.

Later in the day, outside witnesses invited by Republicans and Democrats testified on the fourth and final day of confirmation hearings. The session ended midafternoon Thursday.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Senate Republicans are predicting clear sailing for Barrett after she concluded her confirmation testimony Wednesday. They say she will forge a new and prominent path as a conservative, religious woman who opposes abortion. “There is nothing wrong with confirming to the Supreme Court of the United States a devout Catholic, pro-life Christian,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
  • McConnell made it clear that Republicans will move expeditiously to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. “We have the votes,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. McConnell said that after the Oct. 22 committee vote, the full Senate would consider the nomination beginning Oct. 23.
  • Democrats’ slate of witnesses Thursday testified about the nominee’s potential impact on key decisions involving the Affordable Care Act, access to abortion and voting rights. The lineup tracked with the party’s strategy, which has been squarely focused on health care and what Democrats say is the threat that Barrett’s confirmation would pose to the future of abortion and the 2010 health-care law, with its coverage for those with preexisting medical conditions.
  • President Trump, whose administration is part of the legal fight to gut the ACA, has pressed for confirmation of Barrett before next month — when the nation chooses the next president and the Supreme Court will consider the case challenging the health-care law. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), mocking Trump, said an “orange cloud” hangs over the nomination. Barrett has insisted she has no agenda and is not hostile to the law.
October 15, 2020 at 2:14 PM EDT
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Sen. Cruz refuses to wear mask when speaking to reporters in hallway outside hearing room

By Donna Cassata

During a break in the hearing, Graham and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) spoke to reporters in the hallway outside the hearing room. Reporters asked Cruz to wear a mask due to the coronavirus pandemic; he refused.

Graham wore a mask. Cruz said he was following Centers for Disease Control guidelines and standing six feet away.

The CDC recommends that “people wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household,” as the situation is more risky indoors than outdoors.

Cruz participated in the hearings remotely on Monday as he recently quarantined after exposure to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who recently was infected with the coronavirus. Lee and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who also had tested positive, both spoke at the hearing without masks.

October 15, 2020 at 1:11 PM EDT
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First blind woman to clerk on Supreme Court offers testimonial for Barrett

By Donna Cassata

One of the strongest testimonials for Barrett’s confirmation came from Laura Wolk, the first blind woman to clerk on the Supreme Court and a former student of the judge.

Testifying in person, Wolk described how she initially struggled academically at Notre Dame Law School because she relied on assistive technology that never materialized because of bureaucratic obstacles. Wolk said she spoke to Barrett, who told her: “This is no longer your problem. This is my problem.”

Wolk said she got the special technology that enabled her to succeed at law school and led to her clerkship on the Supreme Court.

“Those who have had the benefit of knowing Amy Coney Barrett understand that she possesses a boundless font of energy and a radical sense of love that she is ever ready to pour out,” Wolk said, adding, “Judge Barrett will serve this country with distinction.”

October 15, 2020 at 12:25 PM EDT
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Abortion rights advocate warns against Barrett confirmation

By Seung Min Kim

An abortion rights advocate who terminated her pregnancy as a teenager urged senators to reject Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, warning that access to abortion is at stake with her confirmation.

Crystal Good is a West Virginia woman who, at 16, was granted a special court order to get an abortion without parental consent. She told senators that she had been sexually assaulted for years by her stepfather as a child and that because of the years of abuse she did not feel comfortable trying to get permission from her mother when she got pregnant.

“I told [the judge] I was a good student, a leader in my school,” Good recalled. “I wanted to go to college to be a writer. I said: ‘Your honor, I want to have a future. I choose to have an abortion.’”

Good added, “Who I am today is only possible because at 16 years old I had access to an abortion.”

She said in her testimony that the Supreme Court has issued landmark decisions that retained access to abortion and upheld workplace protections for people like her transgender daughter.

But “with this nomination, I am losing faith,” Good said.

“President Trump has been clear that he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade,” Good told the committee. “Unfortunately through learning about Judge Barrett’s record, I understand why the president believes she passes that test.”

October 15, 2020 at 12:22 PM EDT
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Outside witnesses underscore arguments made by Democrats, GOP on Barrett nomination

By Donna Cassata

Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee invited outside witnesses to underscore the arguments they have made repeatedly this week about Barrett.

For Democrats, the witness was a physician from Michigan who spoke about the potential devastation if the Supreme Court, with Barrett seated, voted to gut the Affordable Care Act.

For Republicans, the witness was a retired judge who spoke of Barrett’s kindness, decency and sharp legal mind.

Farhan Bhatti, the CEO of Care Free Medical and its medical director, spoke of his patients in Michigan who have relied on the expansion of Medicaid under the 2010 health-care law for their coverage. He said more than 750,000 in Michigan have been eligible for Medicaid.

“As a front-line doctor, I witness every day how the ACA has improved” their lives, Bhatti said.

The physician argued that scrapping the law during the coronavirus pandemic would be disastrous.

“Without the ACA, insurance companies will be able to discriminate, with covid as a preexisting condition,” Bhatti said.

Thomas Griffith, a former federal judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, called Barrett “supremely well-qualified."

Griffith said Barrett, an appellate judge who has been a professor at Notre Dame Law School, has a “powerful analytical ability.”

October 15, 2020 at 11:54 AM EDT
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Booker calls for a ‘revival of civic grace,’ as he warns Congress is pitching itself into ‘constitutional crisis’

By Karoun Demirjian

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) made an impassioned appeal to Republicans to halt Barrett’s nomination process in the name of saving the institutional integrity of Congress, appealing to them to commit “an act of heroism” by delaying her confirmation until after Election Day.

“The greatest acts of American history are when people have the authority to do something, but they showed the restraint of power and did not use the authority,” Booker said. “This is one of those moments, where that is the kind of grace that can stop this tumbling of this institution further toward what I think will be a real constitutional crisis.”

The timing of Barrett’s confirmation process has been a key dispute between Democrats, who insist that it is wrong to be putting a new justice on the Supreme Court while the 2020 voting season is already underway, and Republicans, who argue that while Donald Trump is still president, he can appoint whom he wants.

Democrats have accused Republicans of being hypocrites, because of their refusal in 2016 to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. But they have also acknowledged that Barrett’s confirmation “is pretty much cooked,” as Booker put it Thursday.

Still, he warned, there were “troubling” aspects of the process that would contribute to the “erosion of precedent” in the committee, for future Supreme Court fights. In particular, he pointed out that Barrett had “refused to answer” a lot of questions he considered to be “in bounds” — including whether she supported the peaceful transfer of power between presidents.

“We do have common virtue, we do have common values, we have common cause,” Booker said, adding that the “tit for tat” of partisan politics was something lawmakers could try to change. “But we are doing this and failing as a body to lead in a time of crisis.”

“This is not happening in a vacuum … it is happening in a time of terrible crisis for our country,” Booker said. “I am appealing right now, that we have to find a way to stop this. The only thing that heals this body is revival of civic grace."

October 15, 2020 at 11:52 AM EDT
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ABA discusses Barrett’s ‘well-qualified’ rating

By Seung Min Kim

Representatives from the American Bar Association who evaluated Barrett’s qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice detailed to the Judiciary Committee on Thursday why they gave Barrett their highest rating available.

ABA evaluators found that Barrett’s integrity, judicial temperament and academic charter “met the very high standards for appointment to the Supreme Court,” said Randall Noel, a Memphis attorney who led the review.

The evaluation, Noel said, “reflects the consensus of her peers that know her best.

Pamela Roberts, a Columbia, S.C., lawyer who also helped lead the evaluation, read to the committee some descriptions of the outside input the ABA received on Barrett — including “whip smart,” an “intellectual giant with people skills and engaging warmth” and “without question, the smartest student I’ve ever taught” from a former professor.

The interviews with her colleagues, students and former professors, as well as a review of her writings, amounted to thousands of hours of work, Roberts said.

Both Noel and Roberts said they would “absolutely” feel confident in litigating before Barrett.

October 15, 2020 at 11:19 AM EDT
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Republicans turn back Democratic effort to delay the Barrett nomination

By Donna Cassata

Democrats bemoaned the speed with which Republicans were moving on Barrett’s nomination and pushed to delay consideration until after the Nov. 3 election.

Their effort failed on a party-line vote.

“I see that this goose is pretty much cooked,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called the GOP action a power grab.

Based on the Senate timetable, Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court is likely to be confirmed by month’s end.

October 15, 2020 at 10:13 AM EDT
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McConnell on Barrett nomination: ‘We have the votes’

By Donna Cassata

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear Thursday that Republicans will move expeditiously to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court.

“We have the votes,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate.

McConnell said that after the Oct. 22 committee vote, the full Senate would consider the nomination beginning Friday, Oct. 23.

Trump has pressed for Barrett to be confirmed before the Nov. 3 election.

October 15, 2020 at 9:56 AM EDT
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Graham to Dems: ‘Y’all have a good chance at winning the White House’

By Seung Min Kim

Graham noted something that is becoming increasingly clear in polling: Joe Biden has a good shot at becoming the next president.

“Y’all have a good chance at winning the White House,” Graham said to Democrats.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) responded: “Thank you for acknowledging that.”

The comments came as Graham was mounting a vigorous defense of Barrett and her qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court, and attacking Democrats for their line of questioning against the nominee this week.

“You’re trying to make her something she is not,” Graham said. “You’re asking her questions about what happens if the president pardons himself. What is she supposed to say?”

October 15, 2020 at 9:45 AM EDT
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Graham, Durbin clash over whether Barrett was forthcoming in her testimony

By Donna Cassata

During two days of testimony, Barrett declined to offer her legal views on a range of topics, including climate change and whether a president has the authority to pardon himself.

“I’d be afraid to ask her about the presence of gravity on Earth,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said, expressing frustration with Barrett’s unwillingness to comment on voter intimidation and presidential power.

Sen. Lindsay O. Graham (R-S.C.) defended Barrett, insisting she was forthcoming and dismissing Democratic concerns about climate change.

“Anybody who has doubts about climate change is weird in your world,” he said.

October 15, 2020 at 9:32 AM EDT
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Democrats cite Sen. Graham’s words, treatment of Merrick Garland in 2016 in calling for delay on Barrett nomination

By Donna Cassata

Senate Democrats pushed for a delay in consideration of Barrett’s nomination, citing the GOP’s treatment of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Republicans refused to consider Garland’s nomination for months, saying the voters should have a say in choosing the president in the November election and that that individual would fill the court vacancy.

“Look at the words of my colleagues in this committee,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), imploring the panel to “allow the winner of the election to pick this nominee” while adding that millions of Americans are voting.

In 2016, in defending the delay on Garland, Graham had said: “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’ ” he said. “And you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.”

Republicans have the majority and the Democrats have no power to delay Barrett’s confirmation process.

October 15, 2020 at 9:16 AM EDT
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Barrett committee vote set for Oct. 22

By Seung Min Kim

The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally set a panel vote on Barrett’s nomination for Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

One Democratic senator protested the move by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the committee chairman, to go ahead with setting up the nomination vote, under committee rules that require at least two members of the minority to be present during the meeting. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) was the only Democrat present until Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) showed up.

But Graham went ahead and held a vote that set the committee’s vote on the nomination for next week. Both Durbin and Blumenthal voted in person.

“What’s going to happen is that we’re going to be denied the ability to operate as normal,” Graham said.

The Judiciary Committee vote is on whether to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote. President Trump has said he wanted Barrett confirmed before the Nov. 3 election.

October 15, 2020 at 8:18 AM EDT
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Harris presses Barrett about her views on climate change; nominee declines to comment

By Dino Grandoni

Questions about how the Supreme Court would rule on climate cases are now officially a campaign issue.

Barrett acknowledged during her confirmation hearing Wednesday that the novel coronavirus is infectious and that smoking causes cancer. But during questioning from Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a former prosecutor who is now Joe Biden’s running mate, Barrett refused to weigh in on whether the changing climate is a threat.

Calling the issue “very contentious,” Barrett said: “I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially when that is politically controversial.”

The probing from Harris was the culmination of a line of inquiries from the committee on Barrett’s view on the changing climate and its causes.

The high court is set to hear a case next year involving several oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, that are being sued by Baltimore. The city is seeking damages from sea-level rise and other impacts of global warming. Barrett’s father spent much of his career as an attorney for Shell in Louisiana, a low-lying state that is losing acres a day to the sea.

October 15, 2020 at 8:00 AM EDT
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Democrats invite witnesses who will focus on Barrett’s potential impact on health care, voting rights

By Seung Min Kim

Democrats have called a slate of witnesses who plan to testify about the nominee’s potential impact on key decisions involving the Affordable Care Act, access to abortion and voting rights.

The lineup tracks with the party’s strategy all this week during the hearings, which was squarely focused on health care and what Democrats say is the threat that Barrett’s confirmation would pose to the future of abortion and the 2010 health-care law.

The Democrats’ witnesses include:

  • Stacy Staggs, a member of Little Lobbyists whose 7-year-old twins were born prematurely and have several preexisting conditions. She is expected to highlight the Affordable Care Act’s ban on charging more for patients with preexisting conditions.
  • Farhan Bhatti, a family physician and nonprofit clinic CEO who plans to discuss the impact of losing the Affordable Care Act on his patients.
  • Crystal Good, who will testify on abortion rights. Good at 16 obtained a judicial bypass, a legal order that allows girls who are not yet 18 to obtain an abortion without notifying a parent or guardian.
  • Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who will testify about voting and other key civil rights.

Republican aides have indicated they plan to call witnesses who will testify to Barrett’s qualifications and character.