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Supreme Court Nominee Captures Capitol Hill's Attention

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right. So what comes next? The attention now turns to Congress and Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation process. We've got NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales to talk about that. Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi there.

MARTIN: So this is all moving forward fast, right? President Trump and a majority of Republicans want to get Barrett confirmed before the November 3 election. What can you tell us about the timeline here?

GRISALES: So South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham laid out the timeline Sunday on Fox News. He's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He said they'll start the hearing on October 12, followed by two days of questioning. And then they'll report the nomination out of committee perhaps on October 22, so about 10 days later after kicking off these hearings. Graham said Barrett would get a, quote, "full, fair hearing" in that time.

And then it'd be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on the floor of the full Senate in about 10 days or so before the election. It appears McConnell has the Republican votes to confirm, even if all Democrats oppose. But that time frame doesn't leave a lot of room for the panel to finish. An FBI background check and review answers to the committee's lengthy questionnaire that nominees submit ahead of the hearings.

MARTIN: And even as vocal as many Democrats have been about what they see as the hypocrisy of the GOP's move here, I mean, Democrats don't have a lot of leverage in this moment, do they?

GRISALES: They don't. Dick Durbin, who's the Senate minority whip and a member of the Judiciary Committee, was asked about this yesterday. And he conceded there aren't a lot of options here. He was on ABC's "This Week." Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

DICK DURBIN: We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most. But we can't stop the outcome.

GRISALES: Instead, we can expect Democrats to focus on the timeline. Some polling has found that voters are on their side in preferring to have whoever wins the presidential election appoint the new justice. And Democrats can focus on the issues. That includes corona relief aid that's getting sidelined right now - and that Barrett may be a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which is set to be considered by the court just a week after Election Day.

MARTIN: That's what Joe Biden is seizing on, right? He's talking about Barrett's confirmation as potentially being - of making the Affordable Care Act more vulnerable?

GRISALES: Exactly. Biden gave remarks on this in Delaware yesterday. And he warned that the court could overturn the Affordable Care Act. And President Trump tweeted that Obamacare will be replaced with a much better and far cheaper alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. But, of course, a replacement plan could have been voted on any time to replace Obamacare if Trump had put one forward. Biden has also tried appealing to his former Republican colleagues in the Senate, urging them to wait on this nomination. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: Just because you have the power to do something doesn't absolve you of your responsibility to do right by the American people. Uphold your constitutional duty. Summon your conscience.

GRISALES: In making his case, Biden was referencing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself, who said it was her most fervent wish that the nomination not be filled until after the election.

MARTIN: And, Claudia, any senses as to whether or not this nomination - are we going to see it play out in the election beyond just the presidential, the top of the ticket?

GRISALES: So Barrett's nomination will likely be a central issue in Senate races around the country. Control of the chamber's in play this election. Republicans and Democrats are facing off - some very stiff challenges in several states. And recent polls have shown Joe Biden ahead of Trump. But the focus has largely been on the president's handling of coronavirus. This could eat up a lot more of that oxygen. And the fight over control of the Senate could be a big issue here with Republican voters in swing states and Democratic voters in swing states perhaps coming out even more because this is now at stake.

MARTIN: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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