Oregon senators say nomination amounts to court-packing
Oregon's U.S. senators say that Amy Coney Barrett's nomination is an attempt by President Donald Trump and the Republican majority in the Senate to pack the Supreme Court barely five weeks before the general election Nov. 3.
Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, focused in their statements Saturday, Sept. 26, on how the confirmation of Barrett to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg will affect the future of the Affordable Care Act, women's reproductive rights and other matters likely to come before the high court. Justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 10 on a legal challenge to the 2010 law, which among other things bars insurance companies from denying coverage to people based on pre-existing conditions.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thwarted President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. There was no committee hearing or floor vote, and the seat remained vacant until Trump was elected president that November.
Wyden and Merkley voted against Trump's two previous high court nominees, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. After Merkley's 15-hour speech opposing Gorsuch, the Senate changed its rules to allow future Supreme Court nominations to proceed by a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote majority required to close debate.
Hearings on Barrett's nomination have been announced starting Oct. 12. McConnell has not specified a date for a vote by the full Senate.
Wyden's and Merkley's statements are below:
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden:
"Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have made it clear they will pull out all the stops to jam through another right-wing Supreme Court nominee — even if that means breaking their own rule pertaining to election-year appointments. If you don't trust Donald Trump and Senate Republicans with your health care, you shouldn't trust them with filling this Supreme Court seat. Here's the bottom line: every senator who votes for this nominee is voting to strip away quality, affordable health care — and protections for pre-existing conditions — from hundreds of thousands of Oregonians and millions of Americans."
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley:
"This is an effort to pack the court with folks who have and will consistently rule against ordinary Americans for the privileged and powerful. For years, the Supreme Court has been essentially a third legislative body deciding women's rights, workers' rights, health care, climate action and more. The goal today is to lock in advantage for the privileged and powerful for an entire generation to come.
"We particularly have to recognize the huge impact that this vacancy will have on health care — both on women's health and the affordability of care for the countless Americans with preexisting conditions.
"We knew even before this nomination that President Trump's litmus test for any Supreme Court nominee is a requirement that they help overturn Roe v. Wade and strike down the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is confronted not only with the record and philosophy of Amy Coney Barrett, but also the profound human consequences of what the loss of access to affordable health insurance, to coverage for pre-existing conditions and to birth control and legal abortion will mean for American families — especially those who are low-income, rural and from communities of color.
"This is not just an intellectual or philosophical fight. This is a fight over potentially life-or-death consequences for millions of Americans. This is a fight about whether we are going to take away health care from millions of Americans in the middle of the deadliest pandemic in a century. It's about whether, after the pandemic passes, the millions of Americans with brand new pre-existing conditions can be turned away by insurance company bureaucrats. It's about whether politicians or employers get to sit in the doctor's office with you and decide which procedures you're allowed to get, or even discuss.
"Let's remember that this battle is not about horse race politics or palace intrigue. It's about whether an impeached president and a Senate, both elected by a minority of the American people, are able to complete a shameless power-grab that will ruin lives."
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