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Meeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats

Meeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats
© Bonnie Cash

Democrats face a tough decision with President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE’s Supreme Court nominee, and for many it’s not a question about whether to vote for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. It’s a question of whether to even meet with her.

Barrett had her first round of meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, as Republicans prepare to confirm her to the bench before the Nov. 3 elections, an outcome that appears likely absent an eleventh-hour surprise setback. 

With Republicans plowing forward — a reversal from 2016 when they refused to move Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDOJ faces swift turnaround to meet Biden voting rights pledge Merrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan MORE, then-President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee — Democrats are under pressure from progressives to play hardball to show that they won’t treat the nomination as “business as usual.” 

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There are already signs that the question of courtesy meetings with Barrett will divide the 47-member caucus, including members of leadership and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.Y.) is not planning to meet with Barrett, questioning in a tweet why he would “meet with a nominee of such an illegitimate process and one who is determined to get rid of the Affordable Care Act?”

Asked during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” if it would be better to meet with her, Schumer dug in. 

“Her views are so pronounced that I don’t think meeting with her would change anything,” he said. 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster MORE (D-Mass.) also announced Tuesday that she would not meet with Barrett, and no Democratic senator has announced, yet, that they have a meeting scheduled.

But Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (D-Ill.), Schumer’s No. 2 and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, indicated that if Barrett wants to meet with him, he’ll agree to at least a phone call — in an effort to speak but also maintain a social distance given the coronavirus pandemic. 

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“I’ve met with every Supreme Court nominee since I’ve been in the Senate. I will extend that courtesy, if she requests it, for at least a socially distanced, safe meeting, perhaps over the phone,” Durbin said during an interview with ABC News’s “This Week.” 

Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House, said they had reached out to Democratic senators to try to schedule meetings. 

“Invitations to meet with the nominee have been extended to senators — including to Democrats — on behalf of Judge Barrett. We hope Senate Democrats take their constitutional duty to advise and consent seriously and confirm this well-qualified nominee,” he said. 

More than a dozen Democratic senators, including Schumer, met with then-Supreme Court nominee Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughKavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Jan. 6 case for ending the Senate filibuster MORE in 2018. They used the closed-door meetings to press the judge on the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights, on whether a president must comply with a subpoena and on the Affordable Care Act. 

But they’re under pressure to take a harder line against Barrett, who, if Republicans are successful, will set a record for the closest Supreme Court confirmation to a presidential election in history.

The GOP push to confirm Barrett comes after Republicans refused to give Garland a hearing or a vote in 2016. Republicans argue the difference — that in 2020 the White House and the Senate are both in the GOP’s hands — is a significant distinction. 

One group is urging Democrats to boycott the hearings, gum up the Senate by denying unanimous consent requests and force Republicans to show they have 51 GOP senators needed to have the quorum necessary to run the Senate. 

Adam Jentleson, a longtime staffer for former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrumpists' assaults on Republicans who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid will help Democrats The Jan. 6 case for ending the Senate filibuster Manchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate MORE (D-Nev.), also acknowledged that Democratic options were limited but then floated a similar range of tactics that would “brand the process as the illegitimate farce it is and lay the groundwork for desperately needed reform” if Democrats win back the Senate in November.

Democrats have brushed off calls to boycott the hearing, arguing it would just give Republicans an opening to move faster and ask softballs. GOP leaders are warning that they believe Democrats will keep them in Washington after this week, though most senators were expected to leave town until late next month when Barrett’s nomination is on the floor. 

“I think we’re prepared for that ... but it will keep them here too. And what that means is we’ll be doing more judges ... there’s a price to pay for that,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRick Scott acknowledges Biden 'absolutely' won fair election After vote against aid package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents MORE (R-S.D.). 

Republicans have gone on offense against Democrats for suggesting they might not meet with Barrett. GOP leadership staff circulated a memo titled “Senate Dems Flip-Flop On The Importance Of Meeting A Supreme Court Nominee” that includes quotes from Democratic senators in 2016 talking about the importance of a meeting. 

At least two Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Trump lawyers center defense around attacks on Democrats MORE (D-Hawaii), have said they will not meet with Barrett. 

“I refuse to treat this process as legitimate and will not meet with Judge Barrett,” Blumenthal said.   

Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandPentagon launches civilian-led commission to address military sexual assault Capito asks White House to allow toxic chemicals rule to proceed Lobbying world MORE (D-N.Y.) and Warren, who are not members of the committee, have also committed to not meeting with Barrett. Warren, on Tuesday, said Democrats should “treat this nomination like the illegitimate power grab it is.”

Several Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have not said if they will meet with Barrett. A source told The Hill that there was not a meeting scheduled this week between Barrett and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill What exactly are uber-woke educators teaching our kids? MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel. And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBrown vows Democrats will 'find a way' to raise minimum wage Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren MORE (D-Calif.), the party’s vice presidential nominee who is also a member of the committee, told reporters that she has not yet made a decision one way or the other.

Others have signaled they are open to meeting with Barrett, underscoring the division within the caucus. 

Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerObama says reparations 'justified' Congressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill MORE (D-N.J.), who made an unsuccessful run for his party’s presidential nomination, said over the weekend that he would sit with Barrett and that he wanted to use the closed-door meeting to ask if she would recuse herself if the presidential election was litigated before the Supreme Court. 

“It’s my intention to do so ... I’m going to make it very clear,” Booker told “Meet the Press” when asked about a meeting. “One of the things I want to ask her is will she recuse herself in terms of any election issues that come before us, because if she does not recuse herself, I fear that the court will be further delegitimized.”