WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faces more grilling by senators on Wednesday, a day after fending off repeated efforts by Democrats to elicit clues about her views on the Affordable Care Act, abortion and same-sex marriage.
Barrett, who is President Donald Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court, is set to answer two more rounds of senators’ queries on the third day of her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.
During 11 hours of questioning on Tuesday she sidestepped questions on contentious social issues and gave no commitments on how she would rule on the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Democrats say Barrett’s confirmation would threaten healthcare for millions of Americans.
“I am not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” Barrett said on Tuesday. “I’m just here to apply the law and adhere to the rule of law.”
Kamala Harris, who is Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate, said that Americans are fearful that Obamacare would be overturned in the middle of a deadly pandemic and that the law’s fate would be determined by the hearing.
“Republicans are scrambling to confirm this nominee as fast as possible because they need one more Trump judge on the bench before Nov. 10 to win and strike down the entire Affordable Care Act,” Harris said, appearing remotely by video.
Barrett, 48, would tilt the court even further to the right, giving conservative justices a 6-3 majority. Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority, making Barrett’s confirmation a virtual certainty.
Barrett opted not to say whether she would recuse herself from the major Obamacare case to be argued on Nov. 10, in which Trump and Republican-led states are seeking to invalidate the law. She said the case centers on a different legal issue than two previous Supreme Court rulings that upheld Obamacare that she has criticized.
Tuesday’s questioning also centered around whether Barrett, a devout Catholic and favorite of religious conservatives, would vote to restrict abortion, as abortion rights advocates fear
Barrett indicated that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide was not a “super-precedent” that cannot be overturned. She said could set aside her religious beliefs in making judicial decisions.
She also declined to say whether the 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide was wrongly decided. “I have no agenda and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and I would not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” Barrett said.
Barrett also deflected Democrats’ questions about whether she would participate in any dispute resulting from the Nov. 3 presidential election, promising only to follow rules giving justices the final say on recusal.
“I certainly hope that all members of the committee have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people,” she said, responding to Democratic Senator Chris Coons.
Trump has urged the Senate, controlled by his fellow Republicans, to confirm Barrett before Election Day. Trump has said he expects the Supreme Court to decide the election’s outcome as he faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Trump nominated Barrett to a lifetime post on the court on Sept. 26 to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The four-day confirmation hearing is a key step before a full Senate vote due by the end of October on Barrett’s confirmation. (Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and Lawrence Hurley and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Gerry Doyle)
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