Democrats boycotting Amy Coney Barrett hearing decry vote as a ‘sham’

Senate Democrats didn’t show up for the Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday morning to advance Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and instead stood outside the Capitol to protest the entire nomination process as an unfair “sham.”

“Democrats will not lend a single ounce of legitimacy to this sham vote in the judiciary,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declared at a press conference with fellow Democrats.

All 10 Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee members boycotted Thursday’s hearing to vote on Barrett’s nomination favorably to the full Senate floor. They attended every other day of the confirmation hearing process to ask Barrett questions.

Images of people who've been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) occupy the seats of Democratic senators boycotting a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)

Images of people who’ve been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) occupy the seats of Democratic senators boycotting a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)

But their absence Thursday didn’t change the outcome since Republicans hold the majority. Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., held the vote anyway by waiving committee rules that require at least two members of the minority to be present to transact business. 

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Barrett was approved: 12 yeas, to 10 Democrats not present. A vote in the full Senate is expected Monday. 

“This hearing was anything but fair,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “… Republicans broke committee rules, but in many ways even worse than that, they broke their word.”

Democrats have called out the hypocrisy of Republicans holding a vote on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee a week before voters will decide the next president on Nov. 3. That’s in contrast to four years ago, when Republicans held up the confirmation hearings of President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Feb. 13, 2016 ‒ nine months before the election ‒ claiming the American people should decide the next president first. 

Democrats unsuccessfully asked for the confirmation to wait until after the next president is decided. 

“The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is the most illegitimate process I have ever witnessed in the Senate, and her potential confirmation will have dire, dire consequences for the Senate for the Supreme Court and our entire country for generations to come,” Schumer said. “The Senate Republican majority is conducting the most rushed, the most partisan, and the least legitimate nomination to the Supreme Court in our nation’s history.”

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The Democrats were holding the press conference outside as protesters could be heard shouting in the background of the Capitol against Barrett’s nomination, some dressed in red “Handmaid’s Tale” costumes. They were mad at President Trump but some were also yelling at Democrats. 

“You’re letting it happen” and “You’re letting Trump lead his coup,” protesters were heard shouting by pool reporters. 

Some pro-Barrett demonstrators also joined the crowd at some point too. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Oct. 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans are looking to hold a confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Monday, Oct. 26, approximately one week before the presidential election. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Oct. 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans are looking to hold a confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Monday, Oct. 26, approximately one week before the presidential election. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Instead of showing up to the Capitol Hill hearing room, Democrats had big poster board pictures of Americans relying on the Affordable Care Act standing in their place. Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, D-Calif., were among the boycotting senators, but she didn’t show up for the Capitol press conference with her colleagues. 

“My Democratic Senate colleagues and I boycotted the Supreme Court nominee committee vote today,” she tweeted. “Let’s be clear: this nomination process is a sham and shows how Republicans will stop at nothing to strip health care from millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

For weeks, Democrats have made the case that Barrett would vote with the conservative majority on the court to undo the Affordable Care Act when the case is heard on Nov. 10 based on her past statements against President Obama’s health care law. 

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Barrett did not comment on how she would rule, which is customary for a nominee, but said judges generally try to save the underlying law if one component is found unconstitutional. 

“The presumption is always in favor of severability,” Barrett said. 

The Trump administration has said the whole law must be overturned. The high court will determine whether the individual mandate is unconstitutional and if so can it be severed from the rest of the health care law that has many other provisions, including protections for pre-existing conditions. 

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, dismissed the Democrats’ “theatrics” and downplayed whether the Affordable Care Act is really in “jeopardy” at the Supreme Court. He said Democrats are really about getting rid of the ACA for a “radical” Medicare-for-all system, eliminating the filibuster, court packing and granting statehood for DC and Puerto Rico.

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“This is all for show. This is to try to capture a narrative which is simply false and to cover up what they are really about,” Cornyn said.

Republicans have accused Democrats of wanting to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court if they win in November.

“If they get power, they will move to pack the courts,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has previously spoken out against packing the courts, told CBS’ “60 Minutes” he would form a commission to examine “how to reform the court system.”

Fox News’ Kelly Phares contributed to this report. 

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