Republican Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham on Thursday brazenly flouted the rules of his own panel by scheduling a vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett for next week without the required number of Democratic members present, a move Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned as further evidence of "the illegitimacy of this sham process."
Under committee rules, at least two members of the minority party must be present for a vote to take place. But on Thursday morning, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) the only Democrat in attendance, Graham moved forward with a motion setting Barrett's Judiciary Committee vote for 1:00 pm ET on October 22.
"I believe that this rush sham process is a disservice to our committee. She has been rushed in a way that is historically unprecedented."
—Sen. Richard Blumenthal
"If we create this problem for you in the future, you're going to do what I'm going to do, which is move forward on the business of the committee," said Graham, a South Carolina Republican locked in a close reelection race.
Shortly after the motion was approved thanks to full support from the Republican caucus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced plans to bring Barrett's nomination to the floor the very next day—just over a week before the November election.
"Senate Democrats just denied Republicans the quorum they needed in Judiciary," Schumer tweeted. "But Senator Graham just further proved the illegitimacy of this sham process by again breaking the rules to ram through a justice to rip away healthcare from millions in the middle of a pandemic."
As Graham moved ahead with his motion despite the lack of a quorum, Durbin noted that the Judiciary Committee hadn't yet heard from witnesses who were set to testify Thursday, including a mother of twins with multiple pre-existing conditions who could lose protections if Barrett is confirmed and the Affordable Care Act is overturned.
"This is unprecedented," said Durbin. "We have never done this before as a committee."
Republicans cutting every corner to jam through Judge Barrett’s nomination before Election Day. It’s unprecedented to vote to move forward on a nominee before the hearing has even ended, but they did this morning.
My motion to adjourn—and finish the hearing first—was denied. pic.twitter.com/xLMiagvHen
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) October 15, 2020
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who entered the hearing room as the vote on Graham's motion was taking place, put forth his own motion to indefinitely suspend Barrett's nomination after CNN uncovered seven additional talks the judge failed to disclose in her Senate questionnaire, including one to an anti-abortion group.
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"I believe that this rush sham process is a disservice to our committee," said Blumenthal. "She has been rushed in a way that is historically unprecedented. The consequence of this rushed process is that we have given inadequate scrutiny to this nominee. I move to delay these proceedings so that we can do our job and ask, again, for all the documents."
The Connecticut senator's motion was voted down by the committee's Republican majority.
Bears repeating: @LindseyGrahamSC BROKE COMMITTEE RULES this morning when quorum wasn’t present (only one Democrat there, not the required two), but still moved forward on Barrett’s nomination. They’re doing all they can to confirm her ASAP while people suffer amid the pandemic. https://t.co/dMf7ENOu1x
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) October 15, 2020
Senate Republicans' rule-violating moves to keep Barrett on track for confirmation just before Election Day came after several days of hearings in which the judge repeatedly evaded straightforward questions about her views on a range of key issues, from the climate crisis to voting rights to the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare.
"During these hearings, Judge Barrett has gone to great lengths to distance herself from the reality of voter suppression and voting discrimination that we face today," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in her testimony before the Judiciary Committee Thursday. "This should sound the alarm for anyone in our country who cares about protecting voting rights for all Americans."
In a letter (pdf) sent Thursday, the final day of Barrett's Judiciary Committee hearings, 405 elected officials from 48 states and Washington, D.C. said it is "shameful" that instead of working to approve coronavirus relief for the millions of people devastated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic collapse, the Senate "is rushing through a nominee who is likely to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act and deprive millions of people of access to healthcare, destroy reproductive freedom by gutting Roe v. Wade, and suppress our right to vote."
"On behalf of the millions of Americans we represent," reads the letter, "we, the undersigned state and local officials, ask you to refuse to consider a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court before Inauguration Day 2021."
Maryland State Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins, one of the letter's signatories, said in a statement that the "focus of Congress should be on providing relief to millions of struggling families."
"In the midst of a pandemic that is devastating the constituents and communities we serve, and an election where millions of Americans have already cast their vote for the next president of the United States," Wilkins said, "the U.S. Senate is rushing the confirmation of a nominee who jeopardizes our healthcare, reproductive access, and racial justice gains."