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Sen. Hirono Says Barrett Confirmation Hearings Are Illegitimate


Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett will be questioned today by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of those members is with us now - Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She has called this process both hypocritical and illegitimate. The reality is the Republicans control the Senate, and the math is on their side when it comes to getting Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Sen. Hirono, as I just laid out, you've made some claims that the process is hypocritical and illegitimate. I understand the claims about hypocrisy, considering how Mitch McConnell blocked President Obama's nominee to the court, Merrick Garland, because an election was imminent, which is the opposite of what Mitch McConnell is doing now. But can you explain what is illegitimate about this process as you see it?

MAZIE HIRONO: It's illegitimate because it's hypocritical. So they've done a total 180 on their position in 2016. So I take it that, you know, they - what's good for the goose is not good for the gander or whatever that saying is. But they're being total hypocrites. And in fact, they left open the Supreme Court vacancy for almost a year. Here we are, less than one month to the election, and they won't let the people decide who the next president should be and therefore who should nominate the next person to fill the Supreme Court. So I use the two words together.

MARTIN: Although, as you know, if hypocrisy were a barrier in Congress, nothing would ever get done. I mean, you could point to all kinds of hypocrisy in government. And the fact is that President Trump's term is not yet finished. In the 2018 midterms, Americans chose Republicans to retain control of the Senate, and that gives them legitimate control of the process, doesn't it?

HIRONO: Well, hypocritical means that in this instance where you don't keep your word. And, you know, I don't have the view that all we do is go around lying every day and not keeping our word. That's something that applies to the president and obviously to the Republicans who are in control of the Senate right now. So it is really important that, in this hearing, we focus on what is a clear and present danger to the American public, and that is the president says, I am nominating somebody who will strike down the Affordable Care Act, and that's what he's got with Amy Barrett. So that when they have the hearing on November 10 - which is why they're rushing her to fill that seat by that time - and she strikes down the Affordable Care Act because she's already indicated that that is her position, people are going to be without health care in the middle of a pandemic, no less.

MARTIN: You know that potential justices in confirmation hearings will not indicate one way or the other how they would rule in a particular case. So where does that leave you in terms of your questioning of her today?

HIRONO: That leaves me with what the president is expecting of her. He's made it very plain what he expects in his nominee. He said, I will nominate someone who will strike down the Affordable Care Act, something that is near and dear to the president's heart, as he is in front of the Supreme Court right now challenging the Affordable Care Act. And he said, I will nominate someone who will overturn Roe v. Wade, and that's what he's getting with Amy Barrett. She has said - she has taken positions relative to the Affordable Care Act as well as on Roe v. Wade. And those are the areas of concern that I will be focusing on.

MARTIN: Is there anything she could say that would secure your support?

HIRONO: She can say that, I will not strike down Roe v. Wade, nor will I support all these limitations. So women's right to choose - she can tell me that, and she can either recuse herself from the Affordable Care Act case. Or she can say, I'm not going to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Nor will I support efforts to limit it or to...

MARTIN: So again, as you know, she's just not going to say that. Justices...

HIRONO: Of course not.

MARTIN: ...Who are in these positions aren't going to say that. So where does that leave you? I guess I'm wondering. Lindsey Graham even said it's unlikely that any of this is going to change anyone's mind. If Democrats are going to say no to her and Republicans are all going to say yes, what is the point of this from your perspective? I mean, how do the Democrats make this moment, or do they try to make this moment about something else - messaging directly to voters or Americans?

HIRONO: Millions of voters have already voting. They're in the process of voting right now. And we know that health care is a top concern for most Americans, regardless of whether you're Democrat, Republican, independent or what have you. People care about their health care. And the majority of the people want the Affordable Care Act to continue. And so here are the Republicans who go directly contrary to what the people want, and they are hiding from the Americans the fact that they are rushing to put this person on the court who will strike down the very law that millions and millions of people rely upon.

MARTIN: Senator, as you know, Mike Crapo yesterday, Republican senator, pointed out several examples of justices being confirmed in a similar time frame - between 10 and 15 days. Is this really rushing?

HIRONO: Generally speaking, I would say, you know, this is all they got because we usually have a lot more time, so they're sort of citing exceptions. But we should focus on the real reason that she is being rushed. And that is so that she can be sitting on the court to hear the Republicans' Affordable Care Act challenge with President Trump right there trying to do it. So that is why she's being rushed, and that's the focus, and that's what everybody in America should know.

MARTIN: I need to ask you in seconds remaining - Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have refused to clarify their position on court packing, expanding the court beyond nine justices. Do you think they should give a clear answer?

HIRONO: This is not the kind of issue that you can just respond to on the fly. I have been thinking about reform, core reform for a number of years now, and we have to have a serious discussion about it that you don't just say on the fly. So the only way we can have a serious...


HIRONO: ...Discussion about core reform is if Democrats take back the Senate.

MARTIN: Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, thank you for your time.

HIRONO: Certainly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.