Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Thursday met with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, making him the first Democratic lawmaker to meet with President Donald Trump’s pick for the nation’s highest court.
Manchin said in a statement that the two met to discuss matters of relevance to his constituents as senators gear up for Barrett’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, set to start on Oct. 12. Nominees to the Supreme Court typically meet with senators ahead of the hearings, although some Democrats have refused.
“Yesterday, I had a pleasant meeting with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to discuss her experience, record, and thoughts on issues that will impact West Virginians,” Manchin said in the statement, in which he praised “her impressive background and credentials” but voiced concern about how she, a known conservative, would vote on issues of importance to the Democrat agenda.
“Despite her impressive background and credentials, Judge Barrett offered no contrast to her prior views and writings about the Affordable Care Act which continue to give me serious concerns if she were to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Manchin said.
“If confirmed, she will rule on the Texas vs. California case that will determine the future of healthcare for vulnerable West Virginians and Americans, including 800,000 West Virginians with preexisting conditions. I will closely examine the Senate Judiciary hearings and encourage West Virginians to as well,” he added.
Trump nominated Barrett to fill a vacant seat on the high bench after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If Barrett is successfully appointed, this would give the Supreme Court a 6–3 conservative majority. Republicans have largely hailed the decision to move forward with the nomination, while Democrats have been vocal in their opposition, with some blue-state senators making public pronouncements that they will not meet Barrett, claiming the process that led to her nomination so close to a presidential election is “illegitimate.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been joined by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Maize Hirono, (D-Hawaii), in refusing to meet with Barrett.
“I am not going to meet with Judge Barrett. Why would I meet with a nominee of such an illegitimate process and one who is determined to get rid of the Affordable Care Act?” Schumer wrote in a tweet.
“I will oppose the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, as I would any nominee proposed as part of this illegitimate sham process, barely one month before an election as Americans are already casting their votes,” Blumenthal wrote in a Sept. 26 tweet.
While Manchin met Barrett, he, too, complained about the confirmation process taking place so close to a presidential election.
“Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented rush for confirmation is fanning the flames of division at a time when Americans are deeply divided,” he said in his statement, referring to the Senate Majority leader.
McConnell (R-Ky.) has publicly said that Trump’s nominee will get a vote this year but has not yet said when a vote can be expected on the Senate floor. In remarks to Fox News on Thursday, McConnell said he would decide when to proceed with a floor vote after the Senate Judiciary Committee has made its decision on Barrett’s candidacy.
Republican senators began meeting with Barrett on Tuesday at the Capitol, with Vice President Mike Pence and McConnell being the first.
“We believe the Senate has an opportunity here for a fair and respectful consideration,” Pence told reporters ahead of the meeting. “We urge our Democratic colleagues in the Senate to take the opportunity to meet with Judge Barrett, and as the hearing goes forward to provide the kind of respectful hearing the American people expect.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Judiciary Committee would vote on Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 22, possibly setting up a floor vote by the end of the month.