Gillibrand calls for business loan program

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand speaks at Jefferson Community College in Watertown over the summer. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

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U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Tuesday said she expects Senate Republicans to force through the nomination process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

She also said those opposed to the nomination should be as vocal as possible in order to let Senate Republicans know their views.

“(Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell sets the schedule, so he will call the vote when he chooses to,” she said in a video press conference Tuesday afternoon. “What we can do as Americans is raise our voices and be heard on this and let Mitch McConnell and the Republicans know that we do not want this kind of sham of a process.”

Gillibrand said Senate Republicans are rushing the process through and nominating an “extremely conservative” judge who is “outside the mainstream.” Gillibrand said she believes the American people should have a voice in the next Supreme Court justice, and that voice should be expressed through the Nov. 3 presidential election.

In comparison to other processes, the process to confirm Barrett to the nation’s high court is “rushed,” she said. The day Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Sept. 18, President Donald Trump announced he intended to fill her seat before the election. Eight days later, he officially nominated Barrett to fill the seat, and Senate hearings began Monday.

“We don’t want this nomination to be rushed,” she said. “This judge is the wrong judge for this moment, given her record and previous statements, and this should wait for the American people to decide who the next president is going to be.”

Gillibrand said Barrett, who was appointed to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by Trump in 2017, has expressed what the senator calls “concerning” views on a number of issues, including LGBTQ+ rights, environmental issues, gun rights and the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Gillibrand said she believes Senate Republicans are rushing this nomination through because they want to ensure there’s a strong conservative majority on the Supreme Court when it begins hearing arguments in Texas v. California — the upcoming lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — on Nov. 10, which is one week after the election.

The Supreme Court has held a conservative majority since Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was appointed to the court in 2018, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005, has occasionally ruled with the court’s more liberal justices on certain issues. In 2012, Roberts ruled alongside the court’s more liberal justices to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

If Barrett is confirmed to the high court, Democrats say they fear the court would rule 5-4 in favor of striking down the ACA.

“The reason (Senate Republicans) are working so quickly is because their goal is to seat a judge in time to rule on the fate of the ACA,” Gillibrand said. “The outcome of that case is a matter of life and death to countless Americans, and striking down the ACA would rip coverage from tens of millions of Americans, and jeopardize the ability for 135 million people with pre-existing conditions to access care.”

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 20 million people have gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The center, according to its mission webpage, analyzes federal budget priorities “with a particular focus on how budget choices affect low-income Americans.”

Gillibrand introduced Allie Marotta, a young New Yorker who lives with type 1 diabetes. Marotta said she’s concerned she won’t be able to keep the insurance that pays for her insulin if the ACA is struck down by the Supreme Court.

“If we lose access to health care, I’m concerned our legislators won’t be able to act fast enough, leaving those who need life-sustaining medication particularly vulnerable. Everyone needs access to affordable healthcare, and a healthcare system that only works for the healthy isn’t a healthcare system at all.”

Democrats have said they will leave no option unexplored in fighting this nomination, or fighting the balance of the court if Judge Barrett is confirmed. When asked if she supports adding more justices to the Supreme Court — widely known as court packing and something that’s become a hot-button issue during this election season — to offset a potential conservative lean, Gillibrand said that decision would be left to the next president.

“That will be a decision for Vice President (Joe) Biden when he becomes president,” she said. “I know that Democrats in general aren’t taking things off the table, because we don’t know what the future will look like. I have grave concerns that Mitch McConnell has so abused his authority and undermined our balance on the Supreme Court that I’m sure we will debate a lot of those issues.”

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