Schumer calls on Barrett to commit to recusing herself from Affordable Care Act case if confirmed

Amy Coney Barrett
Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune/AP

The Senate’s top Democrat on Sunday called on Amy Coney Barrett to commit to recusing herself from a fast-approaching case on the fate of the Affordable Care Act should she be confirmed to the Supreme Court, one day before she will face the chamber’s Judiciary panel for hearings.

“President (Donald) Trump’s self-imposed litmus test and Judge Barrett’s own past statements criticizing the law and the court’s decisions raise serious questions as to whether she can rule fairly at all,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a news conference Sunday, referring to a highly consequential Obamacare case the court is set to hear days after the November 3 election. “For that reason, Judge Barrett should pledge to recuse herself from the case involving ACA a week after the election if she is confirmed.”

The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin hearings on Barrett’s confirmation Monday, with a potential for a full Senate vote to confirm Barrett just weeks before the court considers the landmark health reform law — a key point of opposition for Democrats, who do not have the votes needed to block the conservative judge’s nomination.

Schumer on Sunday said Barrett’s record “is filled with evidence demonstrating the need for recusal.”

“In a 2017 law review article she suggested she (viewed) as illegitimate the Supreme Court decision that upheld large portions of ACA. She directly criticized (Chief) Justice (John) Roberts,” who penned the court’s 2012 opinion upholding the law, he said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also zeroed in on the health care law Sunday, with the Hawaii Democrat arguing that Republicans are working to get Barrett confirmed in the coming weeks so she can participate in the case.

“We are going to be very focused on her state of use on the Affordable Care Act and the reason that the Republicans are so bound and determined to push her through with only about two weeks left before the election and millions of people already voting,” Hirono told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“They want her on that court to hear the Affordable Care Act case on November 10, one week after the election, so that she can strike it down,” she said.

A group of Republican states led by Texas, and backed by the Trump administration, has asked the justices to invalidate the entire law, including provisions that expanded Medicaid to low-income adults, allowed children to remain on their parents’ policies until age 26 and guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and cancer.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Sunday that his committee’s process to confirm Barrett will move forward, despite concerns expressed by Senate Democrats about the safety of holding in-person hearings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re going to do what every American has to do come Monday, go to work safely. The Covid threat is real. I take it seriously,” Graham said in an interview on “Fox Sunday Futures,” noting the Capitol’s attending physician has weighed in on the set up of the hearing room to ensure it complies with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Senators who are weary of attending the hearing in person will be able to call into the hearing via video conference, Graham said.

California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee and a member of the Judiciary panel, said in a tweet on Saturday that “every member on the Senate Judiciary Committee must be tested for COVID-19 before the Supreme Court confirmation hearings start on Monday.”

When asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” whether such calls for testing were a delay tactic, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz claimed Democrats — who have opposed a court nomination before the November election — “are looking for anything to delay things even a day, or two or three.”

Kate Bedingfield, the deputy campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, also weighed in on the Obamacare fight Sunday, telling Tapper that Republicans are seeking to focus their conversation on Biden’s position on the size of the Supreme Court bench so that they can avoid talking about Barrett and the fate of the health care law.

“I think you only have to look at how hard, for example, Vice President (Mike) Pence wanted to go with this in the debate last week, rather than answer a question about what his administration would do to protect preexisting conditions,” Bedingfield said.

“That, to me, that tells you everything you need to know about what the Republicans are trying to do here — they would rather have this conversation than talk about the fact that they are pushing through a justice,” she said.