The Democrats Might Actually Have a Strategy to Block Amy Coney Barrett


Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) walks to his office as he holds a photograph of people who where saved by the Affordable Care Act, after the confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, at the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday, October 12, 2020. (Jose Luis Magana / AP Photo)

tacThe first day of the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings featured opening statements from all the Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee and from Judge Barrett. It was, as Gandalf the Grey might say, the “deep breath before the plunge”—a day of posturing before question and answer battles on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The Republicans, however, seemed to have lined up their forces in anticipation of the wrong battle. Of the 12 Republican members on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I counted nine who excoriated the Democrats for their attacks on Barrett’s faith and religious affiliation. Except, those attacks never came. None of the 10 Democrats on the Committee even mentioned Barrett’s religion in their opening statements. Instead, the Democrats used their time to focus on health care. The Supreme Court is set to hear a case on November 10 that could strike down the Affordable Care Act. Barrett has written that she believes the Supreme Court erred in upholding the constitutionality of the ACA in the past. Democrats, to a Senator, brought pictures of people who will likely lose their health care should Barrett be confirmed, and told stories about their lives. It was a day of message discipline from the Democrats that we don’t usually see. 

Caught off-guard, Republicans did the only thing they do when presented with facts they don’t like: they lied. Senator Ted Cruz told the biggest whopper when he said that Republicans were “unified” in their support for protecting coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Not only is this lie provably false—thanks to Republicans who are actively trying to overturn the ACA in court, along with its protection of those with pre-existing conditions (including everybody who has gotten Covid-19)—but you can also tell they’re lying because Republicans haven’t brought a bill or amendment to protect pre-existing conditions.

By the middle of the day, even Donald Trump was tweeting about health care, lying, as he often does, about having a “better” health care plan that will be cheaper than the ACA and protect pre-existing conditions. Again, the man has been president for almost four years, yet no legislation regarding his alleged health care plan has even been authored. 

By the end of the day, even the Republican legal establishment was roped into defending the ACA. Their go-to hack, Jonathan Turley, was on Twitter arguing that the ACA is not in danger because Chief Justice John Roberts and alleged attempted rapist Brett Kavanaugh are likely to rule that the law is severable from the individual mandate, and thus would survive Republicans declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional. Left unsaid was Turley’s acknowledgment that three conservatives—Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch—are likely to rule against the ACA regardless; that Barrett is likely to rule much more like Thomas and Alito than Roberts; and, in any case, that no woman should have to rely on Kavanaugh’s interpretation of the law to see if they are going to have access to health care. Elevating Barrett to the Supreme Court puts the ACA in even greater jeopardy than it already is, and only the most intellectually dishonest or ignorant among us are trying to tell people otherwise. 

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