WASHINGTON — Democrats know that Amy Coney Barrett is almost certain to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. They also know that this week’s televised confirmation hearings for the 48-year-old judge are a perfect opportunity for them to make the case against President Trump and congressional Republicans — over and over again.
Using evidence ranging from Trump’s tweets to the GOP platform, they have tried to depict Barrett as a symbol of misguided Republican policies. Were she to be confirmed, Democrats argue, she would help enshrine unpopular or damaging policy positions for generations to come.
The goal of the argument is to damage Republican prospects in an election that is now just three weeks away. Trump is dropping in the polls, and there are growing concerns that he is dragging incumbent Republicans in the Senate down into depths from which they cannot hope to resurface.
There is, in addition, the fact that most Americans do not want the Senate to consider Trump’s Supreme Court nominee in what could be the final months of his presidency. Republican know that, but have decided to proceed anyway.
Democrats figure they might as well make them pay for installing Barrett under the circumstances.
At one point, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., pointed to the official Republican platform, which calls for the repudiation of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era health law that drastically expanded access to insurance coverage.
“This is what your party platform says,” Whitehouse pointed out. “Why is it surprising for us to be concerned that you want this nominee to do what you want nominees to do?”
The GOP party platform, unaltered from four years ago, also calls for reversing Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 ruling that legalized gay marriage. The platform also calls for curbing abortion rights and protecting gun rights.
Barrett has been a judge for only three years, but she is a legal scholar with a long record of writings. Democrats have used her decisions on the Seventh Circuit, as well as her writings on the Affordable Care Act and other issues, to argue that she is in line with the GOP platform.
Barrett tried to fend off the suggestion. Under questioning from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, she said she had “absolutely not” promised Trump that she would use her Supreme Court seat to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That assertion notwithstanding, the nominee’s reticence about how she would rule, or what she believed, on issues from voter intimidation to gun rights, gave Democrats the requisite opening to say she would be Trump’s tool once confirmed to the court.
“This notion that this whole idea of your being used for political purposes is a Democratic creation — read the tweets, and you have plenty to work with,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., referring to Trump’s frequent tweets about Barrett. “Read the tweets,” he repeated with emphasis.
“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump tweeted in June, after a string of decisions that disappointed the right. “We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else.”
On the campaign trail, Trump has routinely touted his confirmation of more than 200 conservative justices to the federal bench. Barrett, already confirmed once by the Senate, is about to join the highest echelon of judicial ranks. But not before Democrats remind the nation of what the man, and the party, that will seat her on the Supreme Court stand for.
That could damage Trump, whose prospects for reelection are growing ever more slim, and also incumbent Republican senators including Susan Collins in Maine, Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Cory Gardner in Colorado. Collins and Gardner, in particular, faced considerable anger for voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018. Their vote for a third Trump justice could spell doom on Nov. 3.
“Democrats are not denting Barrett in her GOP support,” offered the Republican anti-Trump commentator Matthew Dowd, “but they are doing a heck of job damaging Trump in this election.”
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