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Angry Democrats try to focus on health care as they watch Barrett confirmation

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 10/26/2020 Paul Kane
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Democrats ended their opposition to the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett exactly as they began it 30 days ago, warning that her confirmation as a Supreme Court justice could overturn the Affordable Care Act.

They focused their final speeches Monday on warning voters that millions would suffer if the ACA were tossed aside, choosing to make a political argument rather than going down the rabbit hole of fighting process issues that do not resonate with many voters.

Sure, some liberal activists continue to push for Democrats to blow up the filibuster rules on legislation so that a Biden administration and a Congress controlled by Democrats could vote next year to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

But Republicans were the only senators using the phrase “court-packing” in recent weeks, as Democrats made the strategic decision to focus on the real-world impact of having a high court with six conservatives to just three liberals, particularly on the ACA.

That strategy, focusing on winning in elections next week, is the only chance Democrats have at implementing those process goals anyway. They need to win at least three seats and have Joe Biden defeat President Trump to even consider those other ideas of reshaping the Supreme Court, taking full control of Congress and the executive branch.

Trump’s conservative imprint on the federal judiciary gives Democrats a playbook — if they win

In closing speeches, Democrats mentioned how Republicans had broken their past pledge not to consider a Supreme Court nominee this close to an election, and, yes, they brought up the potential changes that would come next year.

Despite that anger and outrage over a process they believe to be crooked, they kept turning back to the stakes in the elections as a motivating factor for voters.

“Let’s be very clear: If Trump and Republicans succeed in ramming this nomination through, the American people will expect us to use every tool we have to undo the damage and restore the court’s integrity,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a speech late Sunday, adding that she is “under no illusions” about how little Democrats could do inside the Capitol to defeat the nomination. “The reason the Republicans are willing to break every rule to jam through an illegitimate nomination eight days before the election is that they have realized a truth that shakes them down to their core: The American people are not on their side.”

“It’s not a time to give up,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Monday less than three hours before the final vote.

No Democratic pair has done more to channel their anger over the court than Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii), two of the youngest senators who are more naturally in tune with social media. Just about every day since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, Murphy and Schatz have used their Twitter accounts for a fundraising effort, usually targeting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the proxy for ending the GOP’s six-year run in control.

So early Sunday, Murphy, 47, started the bidding by trying to raise $500,000 for Jon Ossoff, the Democratic nominee in a toss-up race against Sen. David Perdue (Ga.).

“McConnell just placed a giant ad buy in Georgia. And I can tell you why — internal polls show Sen. Perdue in BIG trouble. So today, a HUGE goal: raise $500K for Jon Ossoff,” Murphy tweeted at 11:31 a.m., linking to a site to donate.

“We are at 360k from just over 10 thousand donors,” Schatz tweeted back at Murphy just past 3 p.m.

Just before 8 p.m. Sunday, Schatz, 48, announced on Twitter they had topped $500,000 for Ossoff, and at 11:14 a.m. Monday, Murphy announced they had raised a little less than $593,000 in 24 hours.

“I have no interest in being the mayor of progressive Twitter,” Schatz said in a telephone interview Monday evening. “I want to win and deliver results.”

In recent days, they also raised $600,000 for Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), one of just two incumbent Democrats facing a difficult race, and $300,000 for M.J. Hegar’s race against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

Schatz said that liberals now understand how to be “strategic donors” by giving to candidates who do not have big profiles, but whose races could tip the Senate majority. “It doesn’t really matter how much you’re inspired by an individual candidate,” he said. “The point is to win.”

Democrats capitalize on ‘fundraging’ to dominate GOP Senate candidates on the airwaves

Murphy was one of six Democrats to join the liberal group Protect Our Care in a Sunday forum discussing the GOP’s long-running, and failed, effort to repeal and replace the ACA, accusing Republicans of wanting a conservative Supreme Court to do it for them.

“It is hysterical to watch our Republican colleagues try to pretend that the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is about anything other than their decade-long attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s as if they think all of us have been asleep for 10 years — that we didn’t watch while they tried to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act 70 different times,” Murphy said during the forum.

Murphy and Schatz volunteered to speak during the 2-to-5 a.m. period early Monday in the overnight debate, prompting Murphy to tweet a picture of a cold, rainy Capitol as he left in the predawn hours.

“She will rule to invalidate Obamacare, causing 23M to lose insurance in the middle of a pandemic. Catastrophic. Both sad and furious on my rainy drive home,” he wrote.

That has been the balancing act for Senate Democrats, who are increasingly encouraged by the energy heading toward an election that could leave their party in full control of Washington.

But they also know that, even if they win big next week, Trump and McConnell have installed three justices that could leave a rightward tilt to the Supreme Court for several decades.

That fury has burst out in some emotional moments during the last few days of debate, but Democrats keep trying to avoid that pitfall so close to the election.

“Our role is to try to constructively channel those emotions into something that will change the future,” Schatz said. “Don’t agonize, organize.”

Read more from Paul Kane’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Chuck Schumer wearing a suit and tie: Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks at an event Oct. 22 about Democrats’ decision to boycott the panel vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. © Ken Cedeno/Reuters Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks at an event Oct. 22 about Democrats’ decision to boycott the panel vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination.
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