Democrats steer clear of Barrett's religion during Supreme Court hearing

Democrats steer clear of Barrett's religion during Supreme Court hearing
© Bonnie Cash

Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled on Monday that they will not raise Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week Anti-abortion movement eyes its holy grail Abortion rights face most difficult test yet at Supreme Court MORE's religion during a days-long hearing.  

While a number of Republicans last week accused Democrats of preparing to use Barrett's faith against her, it was exclusively GOP senators who brought it up on the first day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee — and Democrats said they intended to keep it that way.

"I and my colleagues will focus, Judge Barrett, on your legal writings, your opinions, your articles, your speeches as a law professor and judge," Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsKavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law Key Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package Democrats criticize FBI's handling of tip line in Kavanaugh investigation MORE (D-Del.) told Barrett during his opening statement during Monday's hearing.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenators scramble to save infrastructure deal Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Ill.), asked if he believed any Democrat on the committee would bring up Barrett's religion, said, "Can't think of a single one."  

Democrats have warned that raising the issue would only provide election fodder for Republicans, who have accused Democrats of trying to apply a "religious test."  

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football MORE, who was a longtime member and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said separately on Monday that he believed Barrett's faith should not be part of the debate over her nomination.  

"No. I don’t think there should be any questions about her faith," Biden told reporters.  

Biden instead said Democrats should keep the focus on health care. Democrats on the panel homed in on the potential impact Barrett, if she's confirmed, could have on the Affordable Care Act, as well as Trump's push to get a justice on the bench before the Nov. 3 election. 

ADVERTISEMENT

But Republicans have pointed back to remarks made by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBiden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children Progressive groups ask for town hall with Feinstein to talk filibuster MORE (D-Calif.), who while questioning Barrett in 2017 about if she could separate her beliefs from her job as a judge, said, “The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you." 

Even though no Democrats brought up Barrett's faith as the hearings got underway, Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Atlanta-area spa shootings suspect set to be arraigned Noem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event MORE (R-Mo.) argued that by bringing up Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 ruling on contraception use, Coons was, in effect, raising questions about Barrett's faith. 

"Now I just heard my colleague Sen. Coons make a reference to an old case, the Griswold case, which I can only assume is another hit at Judge Barrett's religious faith referring to Catholic ... beliefs," Hawley said. "I don't know what else it could be since no one has challenged this case, it's not a live issue and hasn't been for decades."

Coons had pointed to several cases, including saying that he was worried that cases like Griswold v. Connecticut "may be in danger of being stripped down."

Coons, asked about Hawley's statement, brushed off the question, saying that he had been focused in his opening statement on health care and would stay focused on that. 

“I'm not going to help Sen. Hawley run for president, I mean my focus today was on the concerns that I'm hearing from Delawareans which was that there is a Supreme Court case a week after the election where the Affordable Care Act is at risk," Coons told reporters. 

— John Kruzel contributed.