Senate Eyes Early Supreme Court Hearing, Stoking Democrats’ Ire
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Republicans are developing plans to begin confirmation hearings around Oct. 12 for President Donald Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, setting up a bitter partisan fight over the nomination before the November election.
The plan could lead to a final vote by the full Senate by the week of Oct. 26, according to people familiar with the process. But Democrats, who say Ginsburg’s seat should be determined by the winner of the November presidential election, could use procedural maneuvers to delay the process and are expressing anger over an expedited process that conflicts with past practices.
“Nothing official has been announced yet,” said Taylor Reidy, a spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Trump has said he will announce his nominee on Saturday. The president is currently leaning toward choosing Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and favorite of religious conservatives, people familiar with the process have said.
“I have a pretty good idea. I haven’t made a final decision, but pretty good idea,” the president said Tuesday in an interview with WGN America.
The committee hearings could begin as soon as Oct. 8, but it’s more likely they will begin Oct. 12, two of the people familiar with the plans said.
The Judiciary Committee allows the minority party to delay its votes to advance nominations to the floor of the Senate by one week after it meets for its own tally -- which in turn is usually a week or more after the hearings. But Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham could work around that by taking the unusual step of scheduling the vote almost immediately after the hearings.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader, said Wednesday that while he hopes Graham will stand by past practices and allow more time, there may be little Democrats can do to stop such a compacted schedule if the chairman decides to ignore them.
“There are things in here that they’re clearly just going to sweep aside,” Durbin, who said he had not seen the tentative GOP plan, said in an interview. “They’re hell bent on getting this done as fast as possible. They think it helps Donald Trump get re-elected.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Judiciary panel’s ranking Democrat, slammed Republicans for weighing such a rapid confirmation.
“This entire process is a charade,” she said in a statement. “This president shouldn’t even be nominating a replacement to Justice Ginsburg’s seat so close to an election. Republicans are only compounding that mistake by rushing the process.”
Senator John Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader, said a majority of Republican senators want a vote before the election, but there are “differences” and no decision has been made. Graham has said repeatedly this week that he’s confident a vote will be held before Election Day.
Another member of the GOP leadership team, Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, said the process should “take as long as it needs to take,” but doesn’t need to be drawn out.
“I think that’s perfectly fine,” he said of Graham’s plan to confirm a nominee before the elections. “I think if somehow we can’t hit those marks we’re still going to vote on this. But we should have plenty of time.”
Before the nomination fight kicks off, Trump plans to visit the Supreme Court on Thursday to “pay his respects” to Ginsburg, the White House said.
Ginsburg is lying in repose at the high court on Wednesday and Thursday, allowing the public to view her casket under the court’s front portico. On Friday, the pioneering justice will become the first woman ever to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
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