Supreme Court Confirmation: Dick Durbin Says Democrats Can Slow But Not Stop the Confirmation

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing as the outbreak of the coronavirus continues, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. June 9, 2020. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Reuters)

Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) on Sunday admitted that while Democrats can slow down the confirmation process for President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, they “can’t stop the outcome.” 

“We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most,” the number two Democrat in the Senate said on ABC’s This Week. “But we can’t stop the outcome.”

Only two of the Senate’s 53 Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have expressed opposition to holding a vote on Barrett’s nomination. As the Senate only needs 50 votes to confirm the 48-year-old judge, with the tie-breaking vote in favor of Barrett by Vice President Mike Pence, there is little Democrats can do to stop the nomination from advancing.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) has said hearings to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump nominated on Saturday to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will begin on October 12. The South Carolina Republican said he hopes the nomination will be out of the committee by October 26 as Republicans rush to fill the seat as quickly as possible, potentially ahead of the November 3 election.

Durbin’s comments come one week after House speaker Nancy Pelosi told This Week that Democrats had “options” to block Trump’s nominee: “We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now, but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country,” she said.

The California Democrat said she’s “not ruling anything out” and that the Constitution requires Congress “to use every arrow in our quiver.”

While other Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Senators Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut and Mazie Hirono from Hawaii, have said they will not meet with Barrett, Durbin said he would meet with the nominee and dismissed calls to boycott her confirmation hearings.

“I’ve met with every Supreme Court nominee since I’ve been in the Senate. I will extend that courtesy, if she requests it, for at least a socially distanced, safe meeting, perhaps over the phone,” Durbin said. “I want to be respectful. We disagree on some things. And in terms of participating in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, I’ll be there to do my job.”

“We’re talking about someone who will be on the highest court in the land for the remainder of her life, and I take that seriously,” he said in response to a question asking if he was concerned about legitimizing Barrett’s confirmation process.

Durbin said he wants to question Barrett on her position on ending the Affordable Care Act, as she has previously criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in a previous case on the ACA.

Barrett, a conservative Catholic mother of seven, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since she was appointed by Trump in 2017. She has also worked as a Notre Dame law professor and a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Illinois Senator also joined his Democratic colleagues in calling on Barrett to recuse herself should a case regarding the presidential election reach the high court. The president said this week that he wanted his nominee on the Court ahead of the election to rule on potential challenges. 

“I certainly wish she would, it would help matters,” he said. “And it would evidence the fact that she wants to be fair in addressing this.”

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