Oct. 12 (UPI) — Congressional hearings for the confirmation of federan appellate judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court begin Monday — a process that could give conservatives a 6-3 advantage in the judicial branch.
The Senate judiciary committee hearing is slated to begin at 9 a.m. and will continue through Thursday. A vote by the full Senate could come as soon as next week, though it’s expected Democrats will ask for a holdover to delay the vote about a week.
Republicans are eager put Trump’s replacement on the bench before the election and/or before the start of a new congressional term, but Democrats say the nomination process should be treated the same way Congress handled the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell blocked President Barack Obama‘s nomination of Merrick Garland after Scalia died nine months before the election four years ago. McConnell and other Republicans said that because it was an election year, U.S. voters should have a say in which president gets to nominate the new justice.
The vacant seat on the Supreme Court bench creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity, according to conservatives, to change the bench makeup from its split of five conservative justices and four liberal ones to a more conservative 6-3 majority.
A new justice would need a simple majority vote in the Senate for confirmation.
Republicans have 53 votes in the Senate to Democrats’ 47, and Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie. Moderate Republican senators hold crucial votes, including Collins, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
There was some concern whether a COVID-19 outbreak linked to the White House event announcing Barrett’s nomination would complicate the confirmation process. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., have each tested positive for the virus.
Both Tillis and Lee are on the judiciary committee, but can participate in the confirmation hearings remotely. Votes by the committee and the full Senate, though, would require their physical presence.
Barrett, 48, who grew up in Metairie, La., is a devout Catholic who opposes abortion. She was nominated to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 after 15 years of teaching law at the University of Notre Dame, where she also earned her law degree. She clerked for Scalia and considers him a mentor.
Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, have seven children under 20; two were adopted from Haiti and one has Down syndrome. They live in South Bend, Ind.
The New York Times reported in 2017 that Barrett is a member of People of Praise, a small Christian group that requires a loyalty oath to a personal adviser. She is also a member of the conservative Federalist Society.
During her Senate confirmation hearing to the appeals court in 2016, Barrett was grilled about her past statements about religion.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., said, “I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”
Feinstein’s remark prompted conservative backlash.
Democrats fear Barrett’s faith will lead to bias in consideration of cases challenging to Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion.