MOMENTS AGO: Sen. Kamala Harris appears at "illegitimate" Amy Coney Barrett hearing with RBG book "I Dissent' behind her. pic.twitter.com/BPlPJOxnwt
— The Hill (@thehill) October 12, 2020
The California senator, who is Democratic nominee Joe Biden's running mate, gave an opening statement Monday during the start of hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Behind Harris, who was appearing remotely, sat a copy of the children's book, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark.
On Monday, Senate lawmakers began making their case for — and against — Barrett's nomination as the ninth justice on the Supreme Court bench.
Barrett, a 48-year-old federal appeals court judge widely viewed as a conservative jurist, was nominated by President Donald Trump following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September. Biden and Harris have led other Democrats in vocally opposing the push to confirm Barrett before the November election, where Biden could replace Trump.
The nomination has been hotly contested — in part because Ginsburg herself was reportedly against it.
Before dying due to complications of metastatic cancer at the age of 87, the liberal justice told her granddaughter Clara Spera that she did not want her vacancy filled until a new president has taken office, according to NPR.
"My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," Ginsburg told Spera, according to the outlet.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that the Senate would vote on a replacement for Ginsburg just hours after the news was publicly announced and despite previously saying Supreme Court vacancies should not be filled so close to a presidential election. (Republicans have said their rule applies only when the presidency and Senate are held by different parties.)
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images Judge Amy Coney Barrett
Erin Schaff/AP/Shutterstock Judge Amy Coney Barrett's family and others in attendance at her Senate confirmation hearings on Monday.
Harris touched on the controversy in her opening statement Monday, filmed remotely while she campaigns for vice president.
"The Constitution of the United States entrusts the Senate with the solemn duty to carefully consider nominations for lifetime appointments to the United States Supreme Court, yet the Senate majority is rushing this process and jamming President Trump's nominee through the Senate while people are actually voting," Harris said. "[We're] just 22 days before the end of the election. More than nine million Americans have already voted and millions more will vote while this illegitimate committee process is underway. A clear majority of Americans want whomever wins this election to fill this seat."
With the I Dissent book displayed behind her, Harris underlined her support for Ginsburg, whose work many Democrats believe would be undone by a Barrett confirmation given their differing positions.
“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg devoted her life to fight for equal justice and she defended the Constitution,” Harris said Monday. “She advocated for human rights and equality. She stood up for the rights of women, she protected workers, she fought for the rights of consumers against big corporations, she supported LGTBTQ rights, and she did so much more."
"But now, her legacy, and the rights she fought so hard to protect are in jeopardy," Harris continued. "By replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone that will undo her legacy, President Trump is attempting to roll back Americans’ rights for decades to come. Every American must understand that with this nomination, equal justice under law is at stake."
Republicans have extolled Barrett's educational and legal credentials and argued that she was being unfairly prejudged on what opinions she might take on the court, though critics have pointed to her past record of writings and other statements.
In her own opening statement, Barrett described her educational background and her family story as well as how she views being a judge.
"Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society. But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life," Barrett said 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."
“I believe deeply in the rule of law and the place of the Supreme Court in our nation," she said. "I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written."