The Senate could confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court just days before Election Day, with hearings beginning Oct. 12
WASHINGTON – The Senate may vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court just days before Election Day, according to a key Republican senator, making for a potentially dramatic ending to the 2020 campaign.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee – the panel tasked with vetting judicial nominees – said four days of confirmation hearings will begin Oct. 12 and that the committee should clear Barrett's nomination by Oct. 26. That would leave the full Republican-led Senate with roughly a week to confirm Barrett in the final days of the presidential campaign.
The committee released its plan just hours after President Donald Trump nominated the appeals judge to the high court Saturday, underscoring Senate Republicans' aim to quickly place another conservative justice on the bench before Nov. 3. Democrats have been trying to delay the vote in hopes Democrat Joe Biden defeats Trump or the Democrats retake control of the Senate. While they can use some arcane procedural methods to attempt slowing down the process, Democrats are unable to halt the process without Republican support.
The Oct. 12 hearing is one of four that week before the Judiciary Committee, where nominees are grilled on a range of sensitive issues that could be taken up by the high court.
Next week, she is scheduled to meet one-on-one with members of the Senate. These meetings, typical in any Supreme Court vetting, will allow senators to both question Barrett on her opinion on issues and give them the chance to get to know the nominee.
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Graham outlined the schedule for the four days of hearings late Saturday and said he hopes to have her nomination cleared for a full Senate vote by the end of the month.
The first day of the hearings will feature opening statements from members of the panel and Barrett. After that, senators will be able question Barrett about her stance and beliefs on a host of issues that could come before the high court. Then, testimony will be provided by legal experts and those who know Barrett.
Graham, speaking on Fox News on Saturday, said after the week of hearings, her nomination will be held in the committee for one week — consistent with the committee's procedures — before passing the nomination to the full Senate.
"Hopefully we'll come to the (Senate) floor around the 26th and that will be up to Mitch McConnell," he said of the Senate majority leader, a Kentucky Republican.
Such a scenario would place the vote in the middle of the final week of the campaign, during which both Biden and Trump will be trying to woo undecided voters and energize their bases in one last push for the White House.
The fast pace of Barrett's nomination comes even amid mounting pressure from Democrats to press pause on filling the vacancy. A number of swing-state Republicans signaled their support in moving forward, likely killing any chances Democrats had of preventing another conservative from being sworn to the high court. If Barrett is confirmed by the full Senate, the court would have a strong conservative majority possibly for decades to come.
"It is important that we proceed expeditiously to process any nomination made by President Trump to fill this vacancy," Graham said in a letter to Democrats earlier this week. "I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same."
Democrats have criticized the GOP for not only rushing through the process, but doing so just days before the election. Republicans, in response, have repeatedly pointed to past nominations that passed on shorter time frames.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Monday, noted Justice John Paul Stevens was approved by the Senate 19 days after the White House formally sent his nomination in 1975 and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination took only 33 days to be approved by the body in 1981.
"The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination. History and precedent make that perfectly clear," he said.
The average length of a Supreme Court nomination since 1975 has been 70 days from the submission of the nomination to a final Senate vote.
If Republicans hope to approve Barrett's nomination before voters cast their presidential ballots, the process will have to move quickly as there are only 37 days until Election Day on Nov. 3.
Barrett's first hearing on Oct. 12 is 16 days from Saturday, when she was nominated in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. On average, the first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee for a Supreme Court nominee comes 43 days after the president submits their nomination to the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service's analysis of nominees since 1975.
The process normally includes the hearings, one-on-one meetings between senators and the nominee, an FBI background examination and document requests. The process could take longer should there be any hiccups, such as an issue in the nominee's background. For example, Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation was delayed by allegations of sexual assault and took three months in 2018.
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Sending the nominee out of committee only requires a simple majority of members on the 22-person panel, which is comprised of 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats. After that, the full Senate will vote. Barrett would need a majority of the 100-member Senate – or 51 votes – to be confirmed
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Contributing: Nicholas Wu and Sarah Elbeshbishi
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