WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Sunday framed the fight over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, as a battle over the future of the Affordable Care Act.
But several top Democrats conceded that while they could slow the pace of the confirmation process, ultimately they could not delay a vote before the presidential election is decided.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), appearing at a Manhattan news conference with families that have preexisting health conditions, argued a vote for Barrett "is a vote to strike down" the nation’s health care law as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in a Trump-backed lawsuit aimed at invalidating the Obama-era law.
"We can stop this nomination, if the people rise up and say no," Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Sunday, urging voters to call GOP senators.
Trump, who spent the day at his Sterling, Virginia, golf club, tweeted: "Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. Would be a big WIN for the USA!"
At an evening White House press briefing Trump defended his selection, accusing the media of targeting Barrett's Catholic affiliation while also repeating his position that he would replace the Affordable Care Act with something "much better."
"I don't know if I've ever seen the Republican Party more unified," Trump said of the support for Barrett.
Vice President Joe Biden, delivering remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, said Trump viewed the vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last week as "a chance to fulfill his explicit mission — steal away the vital protections of the ACA from countless families that have come to rely on them for their health, their financial security, the lives of those they love."
Republicans making the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk show circuit praised Barrett’s conservative credentials and vowed to press ahead with a vote before the Nov. 3 election, over the objections of Democrats, who have noted that the Republican caucus blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, citing at the time the proximity to the election which was nine months away.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation," said Barrett will likely start meeting with senators as soon as Tuesday.
"If all goes well, then certainly a vote on the floor sometime before the election," Meadows said.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said he has been speaking with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), about making arrangements for the hearings that would start in mid-October.
"If for some reason it's not done, we'll do it after Election Day, but I think we're likely to get this done sometime in the month of October," Blunt said during an appearance on NBC’s "Meet the Press."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate minority whip, told ABC’s "This Week" that without four Senate Republican defections there is "no procedural silver bullet" to delay the confirmation process until after November’s presidential election.
"We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most, but we can't stop the outcome," Durbin said. "What we should do is to address this now respectfully."
Durbin, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) all indicated Sunday they plan on meeting or speaking with Barrett.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a tweet said she would not meet with Barrett.
"This nomination process is illegitimate," Gillibrand tweeted. "I refuse to participate in the further degradation of our democracy and our judiciary."
Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told "Meet the Press" he wants to ask Barrett if she will "recuse herself in terms of any election issues that come before us."
"If she does not recuse herself, I fear that the court will be further delegitimized," Booker said. "In other words, President Trump has said, ‘I will not accept the results of the election unless I win. I'm going to push it to the Supreme Court. And oh, by the way, during the election I'm going to put somebody on the court as well.’ So I hope to have a conversation with her...and hopefully, have a good, informed dialogue back and forth."
Trump, asked Sunday, if he had discussed the upcoming election with Barrett said he had not.