Sen. Kamala Harris said the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett should have been postponed because of coronavirus concerns, saying the committee has not taken enough precautions to keep people safe.
"This hearing has brought together more than 50 people to sit inside of a closed door room for hours while our nation is facing a deadly airborne virus. This committee has ignored common sense requests to keep people safe – including not requiring testing for all members – despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators of this very committee," Harris said during her opening statement, speaking remotely from her Senate office.
She said not postponing the confirmation hearing puts people at risk and pauses talks about additional coronavirus relief funding.
“This hearing should have been postponed,” Harris said. “The decision to hold this hearing now is reckless and places facilities workers, janitorial staff and congressional aides and Capitol Police at risk. Not to mention while tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills, the Senate should be prioritizing coronavirus relief and providing financial support to those families," she said.
Harris said continuing with the hearing shows that "Republicans have made it crystal clear that rushing a Supreme Court nomination is more important than helping and supporting the American people who are suffering from a deadly pandemic and economic crisis."
"Their priorities are not the American people's priorities," she added.
In perhaps the most heated statements so far in today's hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, attacked Democrats for what he perceived to be veiled attacks on Amy Coney Barrett's Catholicism — something he called a “pattern and practice of religious bigotry.”
But in reality, today it has been Republicans, not Democrats who have referred to her religion. As for Barrett, she plans to nod to it in her opening statement where she will say that she believes in the power of prayer.
Hawley specifically pointed to Barrett’s confirmation hearing from 2017 when top-ranked Democratic member Sen. Dianne Feinstein pressed her on her writing about faith and the law. In a tense exchange, the Democratic senator questioned whether the judicial nominee could separate her Catholic views from her legal opinions.
"The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein pointedly said. "And that's of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this county."
The exchange invigorated and emboldened conservatives who said she had been a victim of anti-Catholic bias.
Today Hawley said, “When you tell somebody that they're too Catholic to be on the bench, when you tell them they're going to be a Catholic judge, not an American judge, that's bigotry,” he said.
“The pattern and practice of bigotry from members of this committee must stop,” he said, adding, “And I would expect that it be renounced."
Other Republicans, Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Ben Sasse, have talked about religion.
But Democrats like Sen. Chris Coons have said that they will concentrate not on religious liberty but on what she has written. The majority of the Supreme Court now is Catholic.