Kamala Harris

Barrett Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement - Oct. 12, 2020

Kamala Harris
October 12, 2020
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This hearing has brought together more than 50 people to sit inside of a closed-door room for hours while our nation is facing a deadly airborne virus. This committee has ignored common sense requests to keep people safe, including not requiring testing for all members despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators of this very committee. By contrast, in response to this recent Senate outbreak, the leaders of Senate Republicans rightly postponed business on the Senate floor this week to protect the health and safety of senators and staff. Mr. Chairman, for the same reasons this hearing should have been postponed. The decision to hold this hearing now is reckless and places facilities workers, janitorial staff and congressional aides and Capitol police at risk. Not to mention, that while tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills, the Senate should be prioritizing coronavirus relief and providing financial support to those families.

The American people need to have help to make rent or their mortgage payment, we should provide financial assistance to those who have lost their job and help parents put food on the table. Small businesses need help as do the cities, towns, and hospitals that this crisis has pushed to the brink. The House bill would help families and small businesses get through this crisis but Senate Republicans have not lifted a finger for 150 days — which is how long that bill has been here in the Senate — to move the bill. Yet this committee is determined to rush a Supreme Court confirmation hearing through in just 16 days. Senate Republicans have made it crystal clear that rushing a Supreme Court nomination is more important than helping and supporting the American people who are suffering from a deadly pandemic and a devastating economic crisis. Their priorities are not the American people's priorities, but for the moment, Senate Republicans hold the majority in the Senate and determine the schedule, so here we are.

The Constitution of the United States entrusts the Senate with the solemn duty to carefully consider nominations for lifetime appointments to the United States Supreme Court, yet the Senate majority is rushing this process and jamming President Trump's nominee through the Senate while people are actually voting, just 22 days before the end of the election. More than 9 million Americans have already voted and millions more will vote while this illegitimate committee process is underway. A clear majority of Americans want whomever wins this election to fill the seat and my Republican colleagues know that. Yet, they are deliberately defying the will of the people in their attempt to roll back the rights and protections provided under the Affordable Care Act. And let's remember, in 2017 President Trump and Congressional Republicans repeatedly tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, but remember, people from all walks of life spoke out and demanded Republicans stop trying to take away the American people's health care.

Republicans finally realized that the Affordable Care Act is too popular to repeal in Congress so now they are trying to bypass the will of the voters and have the Supreme Court do their dirty work. That's why President Trump promised to only nominate judges who will get rid of the Affordable Care Act. This administration, with the support of Senate Republicans, will be in front of the Supreme Court on November 10th to argue that the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down. That's in 29 days, but that'll happen. And that's a big reason why Senate Republicans are rushing this process. They are trying to get a justice on to the court in time to ensure they can strip away the protections of the Affordable Care Act. And if they succeed, it will result in millions of people losing access to health care at the worst possible time: in the middle of a pandemic.

23 million Americans could lose their health insurance altogether. If they succeed, they will eliminate protections for 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and asthma, heart disease or cancer. A list that now will include over seven million Americans who have contracted COVID-19. Insurance companies could deny you coverage or could sell you a plan that won't pay a dime toward treating anything related to your pre-existing condition. If the Affordable Care Act is struck down you will have to once again pay for things like mammograms and cancer screenings and birth control. Seniors will pay more for prescription drugs and young adults will be kicked off of their parents plans.

And these are not abstract issues, we need to be clear about how overturning the Affordable Care Act will impact the people we all represent. For example, Micah, who is 11 years old and she lives in Southern California. So Micah enjoys being a Girl Scout and ice skating and reading and eating pasta and baking. Her mother says the only reason Micah is able to live her life as she does now is because the Affordable Care Act guarantees that her health insurance cannot deny her coverage or limit her care because it's too expensive. You see, Micah has a congenital heart defect, she goes to multiple specialists throughout the year and gets an MRI with anesthesia every six months. At just 11 months old, Micah’s family had already hit $50,000 in medical expenses and her biannual MRI cost $15,000 a session and so — correction she, by 11 months old, her family had hit $500,000 in medical expenses. If Republicans succeed in striking down the Affordable Care Act insurance companies will be able to deny coverage for children with serious conditions. Children like Micah. And parents? Well, they’ll be on their own. No one should face financial ruin to get their child or their spouse or their parent the care they need and no family should be kept from seeing a doctor or getting treatment because an insurance company says that the treatment is too expensive. In America, access to health care should not be determined based on how much money you have. Health care and access to healthcare should be a right. Micah and millions of others who are protected by the Affordable Care Act know this is fundamentally what is at stake with this Supreme Court nomination.

And of course, there's more at stake. Throughout our history, Americans have brought cases to the United States Supreme Court in our ongoing fight with civil rights, human rights, and equal justice decisions. Like Brown versus Board of Education, which opened up educational opportunities for Black boys and girls. Roe versus Wade, which recognized a woman's right to control her own body. Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges which recognized that love is love and that marriage equality is the law of the land. The United States Supreme Court is often the last refuge for equal justice when our constitutional rights are being violated.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg devoted her life to fight for equal justice and she defended the Constitution. She advocated for human rights and equality, she stood up for the rights of women, she protected workers, she fought for the rights of consumers against big corporations, she supported LGBTQ rights, and she did so much more. But now her legacy and the rights she fought so hard to protect are in jeopardy. By replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone who will undo her legacy, President Trump is attempting to roll back Americans rights for decades to come. Every American must understand that with this nomination equal justice under law is at stake, our voting rights are at stake, workers’ rights are at stake, consumer rights are at stake, the right to a safe and legal abortion is at stake, and holding corporations accountable is at stake. And again, there's so much more.

So, Mr. Chairman, I do believe this hearing is a clear attempt to jam through a Supreme Court nominee who will take health care away from millions of people during a deadly pandemic that has already killed more than 214,000 Americans. I believe we must listen to our constituents and protect their access to health care and wait to confirm a new Supreme Court justice until after Americans decide who they want in the White House. Thank you.

Harris, K.D. [C-SPAN]. (2020, October 12). Sen. Kamala Harris Opening Statement at Judge Amy Coney Barrett Confirmation Hearing [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAcAk4tPSJs]. Retrieved on January 26, 2021 from https://www.youtube.com/user/CSPAN.