Trump high court pick on way to approval

AFP
Senate confirmation of US President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett appeared certain on Thursday following four days of hearings.
AFP
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Trump high court pick on way to approval
AFP

Chairman Sen Lindsey Graham listens to an aide on the fourth day of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on October 15 in Washington, DC. 

Senate confirmation of US President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett appeared certain on Thursday after four days of hearings that changed no minds and left her majority Republican support intact.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hashed through her testimony on her deeply conservative record and views on hot-button issues like abortion and the soon-to-be-reviewed Affordable Care act, with the two parties still in fundamental disagreement.

Democratic senators made last-minute pitches to Republican colleagues to honor their promises of four years ago not to seat a justice close to a presidential election, saying they would lose public trust if they pushed ahead.

But committee chairman Lindsey Graham repeated a favorite line of Trump's underscoring their voting power — in the committee and the full Senate which must approve Barrett.

"Elections have consequences," he said.

Graham said the committee would vote on Barrett's confirmation on October 22, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the full Senate would begin debate the following day, making likely her final approval days later.

If approved, Barrett would give conservatives on the court a 6-3 majority over progressives.

Trump has said he wants a judge who will end abortion rights and help kill the ACA, the so-called Obamacare program that extended health-care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

The court will hear a case on the ACA a week after the November 3 election.

A long-time law professor at the University of Notre Dame and an appeals court judge for the past three years, the 48-year-old Barrett follows a somewhat fundamentalist school of US judicial thought, originalism, and is a devout Catholic.

But over two days of intensive questioning, she steadfastly avoided expressing her legal views, saying she would not address theoretical issues, but only judge cases as they come, on their own merits.

"There were a lot of questions that were in-bounds that she just refused to answer," complained Senator Cory Booker.

She also refused to say if she would recuse herself if, in the days after joining the Supreme Court, she has to review any legal challenge on the results of the election.

Trump has said he wants her in place if the election results are fought up to the high court, as in 2000.

"I certainly hope that all members of the committee have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide the election for the American people," she said.

Democrats though acknowledged that there was not much that could be done to head off her confirmation.

"This goose is cooked," said Booker.

A wistful Graham, like Trump facing a tough challenge for reelection, acknowledged that the political tables could be turned completely within weeks.

"You all have a good chance of winning the White House," he said.

"The election will come. Winners will be declared. And we get to start over."

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