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Senate confirmation hearings to start Oct. 12 for Barrett

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Donald Trump said the U.S. Senate will likely open hearings on his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, on Oct. 12 and he expected a full Senate vote before the Nov. 3 election.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said in a statement on Saturday evening that the committee would host a hearing for opening statements on Oct. 12, followed by three to four days of questions and testimony.

“It’s going to go fast. We’re looking to do it before the election. So it’s going to go very fast,” Trump said.

The hearings are part of an accelerated timeline as the Republican-controlled Senate seeks to vote on Trump’s nominee before the election, and cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.

If confirmed, Barrett, a conservative and a devout Catholic, will replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18.

Trump last week said he believed the Supreme Court would be called upon to rule on the election outcome, something that has happened only once in American history, in 2000.

Trump has repeatedly and without evidence said that voting by mail, a longstanding feature of American politics, could lead to a surge in election fraud. He also has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

Graham, a Republican and Trump ally, has said he hopes to have a normal hearing process despite an expedited timeline and Democratic protests that Trump should not be filling the vacancy before the country chooses its president.

“My hope is to be able to do it in a fashion that we cannot deviate from the norms too much,” Graham said earlier this week. He also said he wants to finish the hearing process and get the nominee to the floor before Election Day.

But the start date allows senators far less time than usual to get ready. The last six court nominees have waited about eight weeks for their hearings, the judiciary committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said this week. She said this amount of time was needed for senators to adequately prepare.

Following Saturday’s nomination Feinstein said in a statement “there are now only 38 days until the election, and early voting has already begun in many states. No Supreme Court vacancy has been filled this close to a presidential election.”

Typically nominees also visit members of the judiciary committee before the confirmation hearings, although it’s unclear how the coronavirus pandemic will affect that tradition as well as others.

Given Republicans’ 53-47 majority in the chamber, Democrats have no way of blocking a quick confirmation of a Trump nominee, even though two Republican senators have voiced objections.

The judiciary committee has 22 members — 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats, including Sen. Kamala Harris, running mate to Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

From big family to US high court

As the parent of seven children, Amy Coney Barrett knows about working with a large group: it is an experience she will have again if confirmed as the ninth justice on the U.S. Supreme Court — and its first mother with school-age children.

In a flag-bedecked White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated the 48-year-old Barrett for the seat left open by the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Husband Jesse Barrett and their seven children were on hand and visited with Trump in the Oval Office.

“The president has asked me to become the ninth justice, and as it happens I’m used to being in a group of nine, my family,” Barrett said.

A conservative appeals court judge, Barrett is likely to face fierce opposition by Democrats determined to stymie her nomination as long as possible even though Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm her in the weeks ahead.

The country’s first look at the Barrett, however, was as a parent with cooking challenges who, with her husband, has been “co-principals of the Barrett e-learning academy” at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump made a point of mentioning that Barrett would be the first-ever mother of school-age kids on the high court, a point noted by Trump, who carefully pronounced the names of all seven children.

Barrett caught Trump’s attention in her 2017 confirmation fight to become an appeals court judge, when she was engaged in a back and forth with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein about her Catholic religion.

“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” Feinstein told her.

Barrett’s strong defense left a “favorable impression” on Trump, who admired her toughness, a source familiar with Trump’s thinking said.

Shortly thereafter, members of the White House counsel’s office had coffee mugs made with the slogan, “The Dogma Lives Loudly Within You.”

Feinstein on Saturday wrote on Twitter: “Judge Barrett clearly passes the president’s conservative litmus tests or he wouldn’t have nominated her. She would push the Supreme Court further to the right, putting many rights and protections that the American people have fought for and deeply cherish at risk.”

Barrett cast herself as someone who respects Ginsburg for her advocacy of women worldwide but would act more in the mold of her conservative mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she served as a Supreme Court clerk.

But she said she would try to act in a way to represent all Americans.

“If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle and certainly not for my own sake. I would assume this role to serve you,” she said.

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