“The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives out loud in you,” Feinstein said pointedly. “And that’s worrying when you come across major problems that large numbers of people in this country have struggled with for years.”
The exchange became a rallying cry for Republicans – and quickly put Democrats on the defensive when the GOP accused them of creating a religious litmus test for President Donald Trump’s candidate for the 7th Court of Appeal. Democrats said the exchange referred to Barrett’s own writings on the subject, which sparked questions from both parties – and concerns from progressives that it would abolish abortion rights.
When asked if their religious views should be banned when Barrett comes before the committee again, Senator Mazie Hirono said, “No.”
“Look, it wasn’t their religious views – it’s anyone’s views that they bring to their decision-making,” said Hirono, a Hawaiian Democrat who is also a member of the committee. “So you keep telling us that none of the things you wrote or said yesterday should hurt your decision, but how can we be sure that you can be objective? … Why should we say you have one Got a lifelong appointment so you can reflect your ideological agenda in your decision-making? ”
When asked if she would answer that question again, Feinstein declined to say, “I won’t go there.” She added, “Let’s wait for her to be nominated” when asked how Democrats would go for a Barrett nomination.
Democratic strategy: focus on health care and avoid the talk of packing dishes
The debate underscores the challenge Democrats face in trying to find the right strategy to tackle a nomination that appears to be on the way to being confirmed on the Republicans’ backs.
In private conference calls following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week, the Democrats held an extensive discussion of their plans and tactics.
For the most part, they believe they need to focus their message on how the new candidate would jeopardize the health care of millions, with the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court and ongoing legal challenges to abortion rights. They also believe they should focus on what they see as the obvious GOP takeover to hold out a candidate on the eve of a national election, which contradicts Republicans’ refusal to accept candidates for Colonel eight months before the 2016 election Take over the Court of Justice from President Barack Obama.
And increasingly, Democrats are trying to stay away from talks that they would change the composition of the Supreme Court by adding seats to it when they take over the Senate majority in the fall. Some argue that the GOP ammunition stands in the battle for control of the Supreme Court Chamber.
“I’m not in favor of retaliation,” said Alabama Senator Doug Jones, the most vulnerable Democratic Senator this cycle, pushing calls for seats to be added to the court. He wouldn’t say if he would oppose a Trump election, no matter what.
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who will also stand in front of the electorate in November, said “no” when asked if she supported adding more seats to the court if the Democrats take a majority.
“I think the most important thing right now is that people need to bring this to the attention of our Republican colleagues and the Trump administration … if, like me, they think they should be pushing the election and the next president, whoever that is , Nomination of the candidate for the Supreme Court, “said Shaheen.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and progressive brand, avoided questions when asked if she would prefer to add seats to the Supreme Court.
“We need to talk about what this is about now: what is at stake in the lives of millions and millions of families,” Warren said on Tuesday.
Others refused to weigh themselves. “With the mask on, I can’t even hear you,” Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema told a reporter within earshot when asked for her views on adding seating to the court as she stepped into an elevator.
Democrats who backed Barrett in the appeals court have already said no.
When Barrett was confirmed for her current post, only three Democrats voted for her – Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who lost his race in 2018. But Kaine and Manchin told CNN on Tuesday that if it received the nomination, they would now vote against Barrett over concerns about the GOP’s efforts to validate a candidate less than two months before election day.
When asked why he voted for Barrett in 2017, Kaine said, “I think I needed a reason to vote no. So I voted yes because she had a remarkable record and when I saw her performance in the Watched committee, I believe she was entitled to her. ” Position based on their record. ”
But Kaine added, if she’s now nominated, “I’m not going to vote for a candidate in an illegitimate trial. And I don’t care who it is. It could be Aaron Judge or Judge Judy, I won’t vote.” for someone involved in an illegitimate process. ”
Manchin told CNN, “I wouldn’t be at anything. From the standpoint, it’s just wrong. … This is the figurehead for hypocrisy right now.”
But he had a warning for his party when asked about the Feinstein-Barrett exchange from the previous hearing.
“I’m Catholic, OK?” Said Manchin. “Religion shouldn’t matter. … I don’t know why that was ever mentioned. And she believes what she believes; I believe what I believe.”
Barrett’s letter triggered a scrutiny
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have yet to discuss their strategy in depth as Trump has not yet named his election, but they are already familiar with Barrett’s records.
“So it seems to us that the observant Catholic judge is morally and legally appropriate to this type of case in order to convict himself after the trial and before the hearing,” the article reads. “It would probably be appropriate to let the parties know in advance that he intends to do so if the trial ends in conviction.”
Dick Durbin of Illinois, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a second-rate Senate Democrat, defended the issue Tuesday, noting that senators from both parties had questions about the article.
“She brought up the subject. She was interviewed by four different senators: two Democrats, myself included, and two Republicans. What did she mean? Normally you would never bring up religion in a hearing,” said Durbin.
At the hearing, Barrett testified that her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as a federal judge.
But Democrats, including Feinstein, were not convinced, concerned that Barrett’s views meant she would go on strike as a federal judge against abortion rights.
And some Republicans seem to agree on their views on abortion.
Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who has said his support for a Supreme Court justice depends on the candidate’s belief that Roe v. Wade “decided wrongly” said Barrett that he met that test.
“I think it meets that standard,” said Hawley.
The subject is sure to dominate the hearings if Barrett gets the nod.
But the Democrats argue that they must handle the issue of faith carefully.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island who is a member of the committee, said Tuesday that “a person’s religious beliefs or background should make no difference so long as it is clear that they leave that personal background on the locker room door and can give impartial justice to everyone who stands before them, regardless of whether personal religious beliefs might dictate anything other than the law. ”
When the hearings take place, Democrats must “see to it that we respect the Constitution, ask its evidential questions and respectful questions, and make sure the American people understand where a candidate stands”.
The GOP’s decision to push the nomination forward, despite taking the opposite view four years ago, has led some Democrats to call for a much tougher line and close the Senate by effectively stalling business. But party leaders don’t believe that will work.
“I’ve been here a couple of years,” said Durbin. “You can slow things down, but you can’t stop them. And at some point we would use all the tools available. But ultimately there will be a vote.”
CNN’s Rebecca Grandahl, Daniella Mora, Ali Zaslav, Austen Bundy and Dominic Torres contributed to this story.