After two days of grilling by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett will not appear on Thursday, as the panel debates approving her nomination and two panels of witnesses testify for and against it.
The session will begin with senators taking turns stating their views of Judge Barrett and a move by Republicans to advance her nomination to the full chamber. By committee rules, Democrats may request that the vote be delayed a week, and they are expected to do so. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the panel’s chairman, has said he will honor the request in line with the committee’s custom.
That would put the committee’s vote to approve Judge Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 22. A vote on confirmation by the full Senate is expected the following week, as early as Oct. 26.
The session’s focus on Thursday then will shift to a series of speakers who will share their perspectives about confirming Judge Barrett for the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until her death last month.
A handful of witnesses scheduled to speak have experience working with Judge Barrett or hold influential positions on boards that evaluate nominees for federal judicial posts. Others have minimal legal experience, but were selected to share personal stories that committee members believe relate to cases currently being litigated that Judge Barrett, if confirmed, could eventually rule on.
Here is what to watch for as the hearing winds down, and as committee members look to solidify the narratives about Judge Barrett that they put forward this week.
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How contentious will debate be ahead of the witnesses?
While the question-and-answer segment of the hearing this week was marked by general civility and respect for the nominee, both Democrats and Republicans on the committee raised some sharp questions about the other side’s motives.
Republicans frequently accused Democrats of maligning Judge Barrett because of her personal values and religion, even though Democrats determinedly avoided discussion of either topic.
Democrats repeatedly rebuked Republicans for dropping other legislative priorities to rush the confirmation process, and they characterized the last-minute hearings as abnormal and illegitimate.
With Judge Barrett out of the spotlight, Thursday may begin with a more argumentative atmosphere in which partisan complaints surface anew.
Given that Democrats have few, if any, means to push the confirmation schedule back, it is likely to be one of their last opportunities to protest the entire confirmation process.
Which witnesses will leave a lasting impression?
The first panel is to feature two members of the American Bar Association’s standing committee on the federal judiciary who will testify about their positive evaluation of Judge Barrett as a Supreme Court nominee.
The committee, which grades federal nominees on their qualifications, has already rated Judge Barrett as “well qualified” and has historically been supportive of the vast majority of nominees.
The association has shown skepticism about a number of President Trump’s past judicial nominees, rating 10 as “not qualified” — more than any previous president. However, the first panel is expected to give a laudatory assessment of Judge Barrett, whose career and academic credentials have received significant praise among many jurists.
The second panel will feature a more diverse selection of experts whose stories will be far more personal and pointed.
Democrats have called Crystal Good, who is expected to speak about her experience having an abortion after being granted a judicial bypass, which allows minors to have the procedure without seeking consent from parents or guardians. Her testimony, along with that of Stacy Staggs, a mother of 7-year-old twins with pre-existing medical conditions, is expected to raise questions about the future of access to abortion and health care in light of pending legal challenges.
To speak to Judge Barrett’s character, Republicans have called one of her former clerks and a former student at Notre Dame. They have also called a retired federal judge who recently wrote an opinion article arguing that Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith would not color her opinions as a justice.