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The unusual tone and timeline of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing

Amy Coney Barrett faced another day of questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Lawmakers again brought up highly charged political issues such as abortion and the Affordable Care Act, but overall the hearing's tone was more civil than for previous Supreme Court nominees. The National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we turn now to our own Lisa Desjardins and "NewsHour" regular Marcia Coyle of "The National Law Journal."

    So, Lisa, the questions are over for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    You have been talking to some of the senators. What are they saying to you about how they think this went?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There is some remarkable agreement from both parties about Judge Barrett's performance.

    Democrats will admit to you, if they — you talk to them without using their name, that she was a strong witness, a strong conferee, that she was not someone who could be rattled. And I think that is one reason that Democrats chose not to have a third round of questions, which was their right, instead ending the question period tonight,

    Republicans feel like she was their ideal witness, a great Supreme Court justice, they see, but they also like that she can appeal to a very important group of swing voters, Catholic women, especially Catholic mothers. They're hoping that perhaps that this is a reach out to them this election.

    Also, the parties agree that this was a better tone overall for a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

    Where they disagree, Judy, no surprise, what this means. Democrats have come to cameras, spoken to the mics, a few minutes ago, Dick Durbin saying he is fearful about — that Judge Barrett, he is convinced, will try to overturn some very important precedents, especially about health care, including the Affordable Care Act and perhaps regarding abortion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Marcia, I mean, picking up on some of that, the contrast between this hearing and previous hearings, especially for Justice Kavanaugh, what — expand on how different they were and how much that matters.

  • Marcia Coyle:

    Well, they were certainly very different, because they're very different candidates — nominees

    Justice — I think the only similarities that they really have between the two of them is that they have very conservative records on the federal appellate court. And — I'm sorry — they have very conservative records as judges on the federal appellate court.

    And they're — they also are similar in the fact that they both declined to answer many specific questions about specific cases and issues that could come before the court.

    In terms of their actual confirmation hearings, they were like night and day. Judge Kavanaugh — Justice Kavanaugh's hearing was very contentious, even before the sexual assault allegation was made against him. He had a career of 12 years on the federal appellate court. And prior to that, he had a very political legal career.

    He worked in the independent counsel's office that was investigating President Clinton. He helped prepare the report that went to the House for impeachment of Clinton. And then he moved on to the White House when George W. Bush was elected president, whereas Judge Barrett has been on the appellate court not quite three years, and has spent the bulk of her life in academia, as a law professor at Notre Dame.

    So, in terms of the hearings, her hearing has been, as Lisa just reported, very civil, very calm, and some very good exchanges on her judicial philosophy. But, with then candidate — nominee Judge Kavanaugh, it was extremely contentious.

    And, as I said, it was contentious even before the sexual assault allegations, because a number of the Senate Democrats on the committee had had experience when he was first nominated to that court, and his nomination did not go through. They felt that he had not been fully truthful with them.

    When he came up again for the Supreme Court, he had a lot of documents that the Senate Democrats felt they did not get access to or they got access to much too late in order to really review them. So, those hearings got off to a very bad start. That was not the case with Judge Barrett, obviously.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, very clearly not.

    Lisa, back to you.

    The Republicans have made it very clear, Chairman Lindsey Graham, they want to get this train moving down the track. They are anxious to hold a vote. You and I have talked about this before, but is there anything Democrats can do to slow down, to stop what looks to be inevitable?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think the only thing Democrats could do might slow it down for a matter of minutes, not days, as they would want.

    Democrats could have a choice to try and withhold quorum for a meeting tomorrow. I don't know if they will do that.

    But, Judy, all of that process might not matter. Right now, this vote — we talk to Democrats and Republicans — looks likely in the committee next week. The judge has the votes. And then, the following week, the week before the election, is when we expect the full Senate to vote on her nomination.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

    Lisa Desjardins watching it all day long, along with Marcia Coyle, thank you both.

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