Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are questioning U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on a range of issues Tuesday during the second day of her confirmation hearings.
Expected topics include health care, her approach to legal precedent and the court’s potential role in sorting out any legal challenges that may arise from the November election.
Senators will have 30 minutes each to ask their questions Tuesday, with a similar session to follow Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has set an initial vote for Thursday on Barrett’s nomination. That would allow final approval late next week and a vote by the full Republican-majority Senate before the end of the month.
What Barrett said Monday
The confirmation hearings opened Monday with Barrett telling senators that courts “should not try” to make policy and should leave that to American presidents and Congress.
Barrett laid out a strict interpretation of the high court’s role, saying it is "not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the lead Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, immediately signaled that the minority Democrats plan to sharply question Barrett about one major policy dispute — her view that a 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding the legality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a national health care law affecting millions of Americans, was wrongly decided.
The court is considering a new challenge to the ACA on Nov. 10, by which time Barrett could be a justice on the nine-member court, deciding whether to overturn the statute or allowing it to stand.
Possible bias against Affordable Health Care Act
Feinstein noted that before Trump named Barrett to a federal appellate court judgeship in 2017, she wrote a law review article contending that Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote upholding the health care law with what she claimed was contorted reasoning so that the law would remain in effect.
Barrett claimed that Roberts pushed the interpretation of the law “beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
“I hope you will clarify that in this hearing,” Feinstein said in her opening statement. The 48-year-old nominee, however, has declined in conversations with lawmakers in recent days to tip her hand on how she might vote on any case that might come before her if she is confirmed.
The ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, won congressional approval in 2010 over the unanimous opposition of Republicans, who have sought since then to invalidate it.
Supreme Court conservative majority
In nominating Barrett, Republican President Donald Trump hopes to cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court before Election Day. His Democratic challenger in the presidential campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden, insists that either he or Trump should make the Supreme Court appointment after the inauguration in January.
“Voting is underway in 40 states,” Feinstein said, adding, “Let the American people be heard” by delaying consideration of a replacement for liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month.
More than 10 million voters have cast early ballots in the presidential election. A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 44% of registered voters say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on Barrett’s nomination, while 52% say the nomination should be left to the winner of the presidential election and a Senate vote next year.
In his opening remarks, Graham said the hearings would be “a long, contentious week,” but added, “I think I know how the vote will come out.”
He predicted that all 12 Republicans on the panel would vote for Barrett’s confirmation, with the 10 Democrats uniformly opposed.
Trump complained Monday on Twitter about the Democrats' objections to the nomination.
“The Republicans are giving the Democrats a great deal of time, which is not mandated, to make their self-serving statements relative to our great new future Supreme Court Justice,” Trump tweeted.
Barrett is a devout Catholic, but Biden said Monday her "faith should not be considered. No one’s faith should be questioned.”
WATCH: Katherine Gypson's report on Barrett conformation hearing Monday
Enough Republican votes for approval
Republican leaders say they have enough votes in the full Senate to confirm Barrett’s nomination days before the election, a stance at odds with their position in 2016 when they refused to consider former Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland that came eight months before the presidential election that Trump won.
“The bottom line is the Senate is doing its job” in considering Barrett’s nomination, Graham said. “I feel we’re doing this constitutionally.”
Republicans say their push to confirm Barrett is in line with 17 of 19 past election-year Supreme Court nominations throughout U.S. history, because the White House and Senate were controlled by the same political party, as is the case now.
In her opening statement, Barrett talked about her husband and seven children, two of whom they adopted from Haiti, and then delved into her view of how a judge should rule in cases. She has said a judge should be someone who interprets the words of the U.S. Constitution and laws as written, not as how they personally might like the outcome of a legal dispute to be.
Instead, she said in her statement Monday, “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”