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Sen. Durbin tells Judge Amy Coney Barrett her Supreme Court nomination ‘comes before us under a cloud’

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., highlighted a Tinley Park family with giant medical bills covered because of the Affordable Care Act — which Democrats fear Barrett would overturn.

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett To Be Supreme Court Justice Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., threw a spotlight on the medical expenses of a Tinley Park family at Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Monday to make the case, along with other Democrats, that if Barrett is swiftly confirmed, she will be in position to cast a crucial vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Senators used the first of four days of Barrett’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing to preview the clash ahead when the high stakes grilling of the Chicago-based judge starts on Tuesday.

The hearing is taking place while voters have already started to cast their ballots – and how the Barrett hearing unfolds could impact the future of health care, abortion, civil rights, gun control, worker rights and marriage equality and …

· The contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

· The fate of at least three vulnerable Republican senators on the panel, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Democrats need to flip four seats to seize control of the Senate if Trump is re-elected, three if Biden wins because the vice president can vote to break a tie.

No suspense: There is not much suspense over the outcome, Graham said as he opened the hearing. Republicans likely have the votes to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 election.

“This is probably not about persuading each other unless something really dramatic happens. All Republicans will vote yes, and all the Democrats will vote no,” Graham said.

Monday was devoted to opening statements from the senators and Barrett, a South Bend resident and a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals since 2017.

Durbin, Democrats and health care: The Democrats on the panel came with pictures of real people who benefited from health insurance protections made possible under the Affordable Care Act.

Since they can’t block Barrett’s confirmation, the next best thing for the Democrats is to turn these hearings into a referendum on the ACA.

Democrats see this as a potent election issue as voters suffer through the COVID-19 pandemic. Health insurance benefits will be at risk if a Republican-led effort to overturn the ACA before the Supreme Court succeeds. Under the ACA, health insurance companies have to cover people with pre-existing conditions. The case will be argued on Nov. 10.

Democrats believe Barrett’s record suggests Trump wants to rush through her confirmation so she would be in position to side with justices who would strike down former President Barack Obama’s landmark law.

“Trump made it clear,” Durbin said, “that he wants his Supreme Court and this nominee to join him in eliminating the Affordable Care Act. This is his litmus test.”

Durbin shared the story of south suburban Sue and Ken Murray and their son, Kenny, born with heart defects. He had three heart surgeries by the time he was 14 months old. His health care costs hit $1 million when he was 4 months old. Kenny, born in November 2013, faced a $1 million lifetime cap on benefits under his father’s insurance policy. The ACA, effective January 2014, banned lifetime limits.

Durbin told Barrett her nomination “comes before us under a cloud. You have been nominated by a president who shows contempt for the Constitution but does not hesitate to tell his loyal followers that you are being sent to the bench to do his political chores.”

Barrett and religion: Senate Democrats did not mention religion - commenting on Barrett’s Catholic faith-related legal writings got them in trouble at her 2017 confirmation hearing - but Republicans attacked Democrats over religion anyway.

Ernst said Barrett’s opponents want to portray her as a “religious radical, a so-called handmaid” that feeds into “stereotypes,” a reference either to the novel by Margaret Atwood or her participation in a Christian group called People of Praise.