Democrats planning to boycott Senate Judiciary vote to advance Barrett nomination

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Ranking member U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speak to each other while Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on October 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away in September. (Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — Senate Judiciary Democrats, facing criticism from the left that they have not done more to question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court confirmation proceedings for Amy Coney Barrett, plan to take the extraordinary step of boycotting a key committee vote on Thursday.

Republicans said they can still hold the committee vote Thursday and advance the nomination even if Democrats boycott the proceedings, though the act is a sign of the partisan rancor over the election year nomination to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Democrats hardball move comes amid dissatisfaction from some liberal groups over their handling of the nomination, with Sen, Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, in particular singled out for praising Republican chairman’s stewardship of the proceedings.

Democrats say they plan to fill the seats Thursday with pictures of people impacted by the Affordable Care Act, part of the Democratic strategy for tying Barrett’s nomination to a threat posed to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, which is scheduled to be before the Supreme Court the week after Election Day.

“This has been a sham process from the beginning,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Democrats in a statement released Wednesday. “We will not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just twelve days before the culmination of an election that is already underway.”

Asked if the Democratic boycott is simply just a stunt, Schumer told CNN: “We’re not giving a quorum they need to provide. The rules require it.”

Under Senate Judiciary Committee rules, nine members of the panel, including two members of the minority party, must be present “for the purpose of transacting business.”

But Republicans say Senate rule 26 supersedes the Judiciary Committee requirements. That rule says that “no measure or matter or recommendation shall be reported from any committee unless a majority of the committee were physically present.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said the GOP is moving forward no matter what, setting up a Monday confirmation vote by the full Senate, amounting to one of the quickest confirmation proceedings in modern times by pushing the nomination through in just over a month. It comes despite the GOP’s refusal to move on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee eight months before the 2016 elections.

“She deserves to be reported out, and she will be reported out,” Graham told reporters. “She deserves better than this. The political system is broken. I get that. Plenty of blame to go around.”

Democrats’ extraordinary move will rob them of an opportunity to deliver speeches opposing the nomination on Thursday. But Barrett would ultimately get approved by the panel on a 12-0 vote. They say that the GOP will break the rules if they advance her nomination Thursday with no minority members present, though they acknowledge there is little they can do to stop it.

“Apparently they have no intention of following the rules,” said veteran Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and former chairman of the committee. “I’m old school, I keep my word. They don’t keep their word.”

The announcement of the boycott comes after Senate Democrats have been sharply criticized by some of their liberal supporters for not taking a tougher line with Barrett and adding legitimacy to the process during Barrett’s hearings last week.

In particular, Feinstein came under scathing criticism when she praised Graham for his handling of the confirmation process. Feinstein’s comments infuriated Democrats and liberal activists who had been seeking to mount a unified attack over proceedings they deemed a sham. Two progressive groups, including the abortion-rights lobby NARAL, demanded she be removed as the top Democrat on the committee, while GOP leaders have repeatedly highlighted her comments as they race to get Barrett confirmed eight days before Election Day.

“I’ve had a long and serious talk with Sen. Feinstein,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday when asked if he was looking to make changes atop the powerful committee. “That’s all I’m going to say about it right now.”

Feinstein would not comment to CNN when asked Wednesday if she would seek the chairmanship of the committee if Democrats take the Senate majority.

“I’m not going to respond to that,” she told CNN when asked twice if she wanted the position.