Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing to begin in US Senate.

The confirmation hearing for US supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett begins on Monday in Washington, setting up an almost certain partisan battle in the Senate just three weeks before the presidential election.

The 22 members of the Senate judiciary committee will commence four days of hearings, ahead of a committee vote next week, with the process then moving to the full Senate for a vote, most likely in the week before the November 3rd election.

According to her opening statement, which was released on Sunday, Ms Barrett will say that she believes a justice must “apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were”.

She will also outline the influence that the late justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative member of the court, had on her thinking. Ms Coney Barrett clerked for the late justice early in her career.

The schedule for Ms Barrett’s confirmation hearing had been plunged into doubt by coronavirus. A number of senators contracted Covid-19 after attending the White House nomination ceremony on September 26th when President Donald Trump unveiled the 48-year-old judge as his nominee to replace the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Covid-19 illnesses

More than a dozen people – including two senators who sit on the judiciary committee, Thom Tillis and Mike Lee – subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

The infection of the committee members had prompted calls by Democrats for the hearing to be delayed, particularly given that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell postponed business on the Senate floor for two weeks.

But Senate judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham vowed to continue as planned, with the hearing beginning at 9am on Monday. Some members of the committee are expected to participate remotely, while those attending in person will be required to sit six feet (two metres) apart in the committee room, just blocks away from the supreme court.

Abortion rights

Ms Barrett’s will be the third supreme court confirmation hearing since Mr Trump’s election. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed in 2017. A year later, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in following a contentious Senate battle due to accusations of sexual assault.

Ms Barrett’s confirmation hearing is also expected to be tense, with Democrats likely to focus on views on abortion rights. In particular, they are expected to ask Ms Barrett why she did not include in her Senate disclosure forms her participation in a 2006 ad calling for Roe v Wade, the supreme court ruling establishing the constitutional right to abortion, to be overturned.

Ms Barrett was one of several signatories to the two-page ad that ran in the South Bend Tribune criticising Roe v Wade and its “barbaric legacy”.

The nominee’s links with the Christian group People of Praise are also likely to come under scrutiny.

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