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Monday October 19th, 2020 8:51PM

The Latest: Senator wants Barrett recusal in election cases

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett (all times local):

11:50 a.m.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal says Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett must recuse herself from any cases involving President Donald Trump and the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

The Connecticut senator says Barrett’s participation in election cases would do “explosive, enduring harm to the court’s legitimacy" and to her credibility.

Blumenthal told Trump’s nominee on Monday: “You must recuse yourself.”

Democrats are warning Republicans that the American public is not on their side rushing Trump’s nominee to confirmation while early voting is underway. Democrats say the winner of the presidential election should choose the nominee for the seat made vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Republicans want Barrett confirmed before the presidential election.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATION HEARINGS:

The Republican-controlled Senate is charging ahead on President Donald Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and cement a conservative court majority before Election Day.

Read more:

— Lindsey Graham's last stand? Senator leads Barrett court hearings.

— Graham, Harris, Feinstein among the senators to watch at Barrett's hearings.

— Barrett is Scalia's ideological heir.

— Barrett's notable opinions.

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

10:55 a.m.

The American Bar Association says Judge Amy Coney Barrett is well qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the association says it has completed its evaluation of the professional qualifications of President Donald Trump’s choice to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The letter says a majority of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary determined that Barrett is “Well Qualified.” A minority is of the opinion Barrett is “Qualified” to serve.

The group says its evaluation is based on “the qualities of integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament.”

Republicans want Barrett confirmed before the presidential election.

Democratic vice presidential nominee and Sen. Kamala Harris says Republicans are trying to “ram through” Barrett.

___

10:45 a.m.

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is “a judicial torpedo” aimed at protections provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Whitehouse and other Democrats argued Monday at Barrett’s confirmation hearing that the Affordable Care Act is at serious risk if Barrett is confirmed to the high court. The court is set to hear a major challenge to the law on Nov. 10, a week after the presidential election.

Whitehouse says the nation is in the midst of a “relentless” health care crisis that the Trump administration has “botched.” He notes former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “hadn’t been buried when the president and Senate Republicans celebrated Barrett’s nomination at the White House super-spreader event,” when a number of White House aides and others were likely infected with the coronavirus.

Whitehouse says Barrett “has signaled in the judicial equivalent of all-caps that she believes the ACA must go.″

Republicans want Barrett confirmed before the election.

___

10:35 a.m.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden says Senate Democrats should make health care the focus of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, not the conservative judge’s Catholic faith.

Biden is also a practicing Catholic. He told reporters ahead of a campaign trip to Ohio on Monday he doesn’t think “there’s any question about her faith.”

Biden says the more important matter is that “this nominee says she wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.”

Before Barrett was a federal judge, she questioned the reasoning behind Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion upholding the 2010 health care law. The law is being challenged again, with oral arguments set for Nov. 10, a week after the election.

Biden warns Barrett’s quick confirmation would mean “20 million Americans may lose their health care.”

Republicans have accused Democrats of questioning Barrett’s faith and whether it would affect her decisions. Republicans want Barrett confirmed before the election.

___

10:15 a.m.

Democratic vice presidential nominee and Sen. Kamala Harris is criticizing Republicans for trying to “ram through” Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett while Americans are voting in the presidential election.

The California senator said on Monday that running mate Joe Biden has “been really clear” and she has been “really clear.” She tells reporters on Capitol Hill, “We are 22 days away from an election, and people are voting right now.”

Harris says Republicans are “trying to push through, ram through, a Supreme Court justice for a lifetime appointment while almost 7 million people have already voted.”

Harris is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee but will be attending the hearing remotely because of COVID-19 concerns.

Republicans are pushing to confirm Barrett before Election Day.

___

9:40 a.m.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says “healthcare coverage for millions of Americans is at stake” in the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Feinstein was speaking Monday during the start of hearings for Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, says the president has promised to appoint justices who will vote to undo the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration is challenging the law in a case that will be heard by the Supreme Court on Nov. 10.

Feinstein and Democrats are expected to focus on healthcare during the hearings. Feinstein still faces criticism for her comments during Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing to be a federal judge. Feinstein had joined Republicans on the panel in asking Barrett about her Roman Catholic faith, but then went further by telling Barrett, then a Notre Dame law professor, that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.″

Republicans are pushing to confirm Barrett before Election Day.

___

9:30 a.m.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says Judge Amy Coney Barrett is in a “category of excellence” as a law professor and legal scholar.

Graham, R-S.C., praised Barrett as he opened Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Republican-led panel. Barring a dramatic development, Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm the 48-year-old conservative appellate judge to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.

Graham acknowledged “the COVID problem in America is real,″ but said, “We do have a country that needs to move forward safely.” Barrett was wearing a face mask, as were all the roughly 100 people in the cavernous hearing room.

Graham cited Barrett’s testimony that she follows the judicial philosophy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked two decades ago. He called that a good summary of “who Amy Barrett is in terms of the law.″

Graham acknowledged the hearings are likely to be contentious, but said he hopes they do replicate the divisive hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “She doesn’t deserve that,″ Graham said. ”The American people I don’t believe deserve a repeat of those episodes.”

___

9:20 a.m.

A Utah Republican senator who had tested positive for the coronavirus says “I feel great” and is attending hearings in person for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Sen. Michael Lee was present for the start of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings Monday for Barrett. He was wearing a blue surgical mask.

Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee, had previously said the senator is symptom-free.

Lee and another member of the committee, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, both announced Oct. 2 that they had tested positive for the virus. Both attended a Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony in Barrett’s honor that seems to have been a major spreader of the virus.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham opened the hearing by defending holding the hearing so close to the presidential election. And he noted the likely outcome of the confirmation process. “All Republicans will vote yes. All Democrats will vote no.”

___

9 a.m.

Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing has begun.

The hearing room was largely empty Monday and some senators tuned in virtually, citing the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump nominated Barrett just two weeks ago to fill the seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. Trump and Republicans want Barrett on the bench in time for Election Day, Nov. 3.

The hearing comes as three GOP senators have tested positive for the coronavirus, including two on the Judiciary Committee who now say they are symptom-free. The positive tests came after Trump’s Sept. 26 Rose Garden event announcing Barrett’s nomination. Trump fell ill with COVID-19 about 10 days ago.

Barrett, a conservative, would shift the balance on the court significantly right, from 5-4 in favor of conservatives to 6-3. Democrats worry she would vote to rule the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. They’re also concerned about her record on abortion.

She was confirmed to the federal appeals court in 2017. Before that, she was a law professor at Notre Dame and was once a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia.

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