Lindsey Graham looking to start confirmation hearing for RBG’s replacement before second debate

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Lindsey Graham will likely schedule a confirmation hearing for Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee the week of October 12, which is when the second presidential debate will take place.

Two people familiar with the still-in-the-works plan for the mid-October hearing told The Washington Post that this would set up a vote for the following week.

The average timeframe for confirming a Supreme Court Justice is around 67 days or a little over two months – making Graham’s intended timeline a bit aggressive.

‘I’m confident we can have a hearing that would allow the nominee to be submitted before Election Day,’ Graham said. ‘Following the precedents of the Senate, I think we can do that.’

Graham is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice and other judicial nominees.

The South Carolina Republican, and Trump ally and golf partner, will announce how the confirmation process will proceed once the president announces his pick on Saturday.

Democrats are largely powerless to stop the Republican-controlled Senate from confirming Trump’s nomination after it became clear this week the GOP has the votes.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is looking to hold the confirmation hearing for Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee on the week of October 12 so a vote can be scheduled before Halloween

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is looking to hold the confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on the week of October 12 so a vote can be scheduled before Halloween

Senator Mitt Romney joined rank and file Republicans Tuesday by saying he would vote to confirm Trump's nominee – helping secure the Senate majority by two votes

Senator Mitt Romney joined rank and file Republicans Tuesday by saying he would vote to confirm Trump’s nominee – helping secure the Senate majority by two votes

Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine both said whoever is elected president in November should choose who will fill the seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican who voted to convict Trump on one impeachment charge, said Tuesday that he would back the president and vote to confirm his nominee.

Senator Mitt Romney – the last remaining Republican holdout – said he would back the president and vote for a nominee in an election year.

‘I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,’ Romney said in a statement as Republicans worried he would join Murkowski and Collins.

Even if Romney were to remain a holdout, the Senate would still have enough votes to get the nominee through considering they only need a simple majority to do so.

Romney, who the president called a ‘Republican in name only’ or a ‘RINO,’ told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday there is historic precedent for when one party controls the White House and the Senate for their nominations to be confirmed.

‘I think there’s some perception on the part of some writers and others that gee what happened with Merrick Garland and some others was unfair. I don’t agree with that,’ he said in reference to Barack Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee, which was blocked by the Republican Senate.

‘I think at this stage it’s appropriate to look at the Constitution and to look at the precedent, which has existed since the beginning of our country’s history,’ he continued.

‘In the circumstance where a nominee of a president is from a different party than the Senate then, more often than not, the Senate does not confirm,’ he said. ‘So the Garland decision was consistent with that. On the other hand, when there’s a nominee of a party that is in the same party as the Senate, then typically they do confirm. So the Garland decision was consistent with that. And the decision to proceed now with President Trump’s nominee is also consistent with history. I came down on the side of the institution and precedent as I’ve studied it. And, and made the decision on that basis.’

Trump has not yet announced who he will nominate, but Judge Amy Coney Barrett (left) has emerged as his top choice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sources say – and Barbara Lagoa (right) is a ‘distant second’

The failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee declined to say if he would change his mind if Democrat Joe Biden wins the November election.

‘I’m not going to get into the particulars of who wins and who doesn’t,’ he said. ‘There are many possibilities that we could go through. I’ve indicated that what I intend to do, is to proceed with the consideration process and if a nominee actually reaches the floor, then I will vote based upon the qualifications of that nominee.’

Even though the votes are there, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not promise Trump a vote on his Supreme Court pick before November 3, but has signaled he would bring the vote to the floor during the lame duck session.

McConnell said he would wait for the nominee to come out of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and then set the date for the vote on the Senate floor.

‘When the nomination comes out of committee, then I’ll decide when and how to proceed,’ he said after the Senate Republicans’ lunch on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

He would not address if that vote would be before or after the election where voters will decide who will be the next president of the United States.

Trump has pushed for a vote on his nominee before the general election, but McConnell could be more peckish on the timing to help out his senators in tight re-election contests who would prefer to deal with the issue after the voters go to the polls.

Some have also pointed to tough timing of the matter since there would be less than 40 days before the election to go through the whole process.

Traditionally a nominee holds meetings with senators, has a confirmation hearing that could take two or three days, has to be voted out of committee and then has the final vote on the Senate floor.

Trump teased Tuesday on Twitter that he will be making his announcement from the White House sometime on Saturday.

Gibsurg, who died Friday at age 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer, left the nine-Justice court with only two women. Trump has vowed to fill Gisburg’s seat with another woman.

Amy Coney Barrett, according to a Bloomberg report, has emerged as Trump’s top choice to replace RGB, which her supporters lovingly dubbed her.

Trump met with Barrett at the White House on Monday after he announced that he is vetting ‘four or five’ women to take Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat.

Barrett is a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court and mother of seven – two of her children are adopted from Haiti.

Sources claimed the president is ‘leaning toward’ Barrett for the nomination but is also planning to meet with another contender, Barbara Lagoa, sometime this week.

Lagoa, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and former justice on the Florida Supreme Court, is the only other person being seriously considered for the job, the sources claimed, but she is a ‘distant second’ to Barrett.

Who is Amy Coney Barrett? 

On Saturday afternoon, Trump named Amy Coney Barrett, 48, of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa, 52, of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit as possible nominees.

Emerging as the favorite is Barrett, 48, a mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs.

 Her involvement in a cult-like Catholic group where members are assigned a ‘handmaiden’ has caused concern in Barret’s nomination to other courts and is set to come under fierce review again if she is Trump’s pick.

The group was the one which helped inspire ‘The Handmaids Tale’, book’s author Margaret Atwood has said. 

Barrett emerges now as a front runner after she was already shortlisted for the nomination in 2018 which eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump called the federal appellate court judge ‘very highly respected’ when questioned about her Saturday. 

Born in New Orleans in 1972, she was the first and only woman to occupy an Indiana seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Married to Jesse M. Barrett, a partner at SouthBank Legal in South Bend and former Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, the couple have five biological and two adopted children. 

Their youngest biological child has Down Syndrome.

Friends say she is a devoted mother – and say with just an hour to go until she was voted into the 7th District Court of Appeals by the U.S. Senate in 2017, Barrett was outside trick-or-treating with her kids. 

Barrett’s strong Christian ideology makes her a favorite of the right but her involvement in a religious group sometimes branded as a ‘cult’ is set to be harshly criticized.    

In 2017, her affiliation to the small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise caused concern while she was a nominee for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 

The New York Times reported that the practices of the group would surprise even other Catholics with members of the group swearing a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another. 

They are also assigned and held accountable to a personal adviser, known until recently as a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women and believe in prophecy, speaking in tongues and divine healings. 

Members are also encouraged to confess personal sins, financial information and other sensitive disclosures to these advisors. 

Advisors are allowed to report these admissions to group leadership if necessary, according to an account of one former member. 

The organization itself says that the term ‘handmaid’ was a reference to Jesus’s mother Mary’s description of herself as a ‘handmaid of the Lord.’

They said they recently stopped using the term due to cultural shifts and now use the name ‘women leaders.’ 

The group deems that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family while ‘the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children,’ the Times reported. 

Unmarried members are placed living with married couples members often look to buy or rent homes near other members. 

Founded in 1971, People of Praise was part of the era’s ‘great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,’ founder Bishop Peter Smith told the Catholic News Agency. 

Beginning with just 29 members, it now has an estimated 2,000. 

According to CNA, some former members of the People of Praise allege that leaders exerted undue influence over family decision-making, or pressured the children of members to commit to the group. 

At least 10 members of Barrett’s family, not including their children, also belong to the group. 

Barrett’s father, Mike Coney, serves on the People of Praise’s powerful 11-member board of governors, described as the group’s ‘highest authority.’ 

Her mother Linda served as a handmaiden.  

The group’s ultra-conservative religious tenets helped spur author Margaret Atwood to publish The Handmaid’s Tale, a story about a religious takeover of the U.S. government, according to a 1986 interview with the writer.

The book has since been made into a hit TV series. 

According to legal experts, loyalty oaths such at the one Barrett would have taken to People of Praise could raise legitimate questions about a judicial nominee’s independence and impartiality. 

‘These groups can become so absorbing that it’s difficult for a person to retain individual judgment,’ said Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of constitutional law and history at the University of Pennsylvania. 

‘I don’t think it’s discriminatory or hostile to religion to want to learn more’ about her relationship with the group.

‘We don’t try to control people,’ said Craig S. Lent. ‘And there’s never any guarantee that the leader is always right. You have to discern and act in the Lord. 

‘If and when members hold political offices, or judicial offices, or administrative offices, we would certainly not tell them how to discharge their responsibilities.’

During her professional career, Barrett spent two decades as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, from which she holds her bachelor’s and law degrees.

She was named ‘Distinguished Professor of the Year’ three separate years, a title decided by students. 

A former clerk for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, she was nominated by Trump to serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 and confirmed in a 55-43 vote by the Senate later that year.

At the time, three Democratic senators supported her nomination: Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who subsequently lost his 2018 reelection bid, Tim Kaine (Va.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), according to the Hill.

She was backed by every GOP senator at the time, but she did not disclose her relationship with People of Praise which led to later criticism of her appointment. 

Barret is well-regarded by the religious right because of this devout faith.

Yet these beliefs are certain to cause problems with her conformation and stand in opposition to the beliefs of Ginsburg, who she would be replacing.

Axios reported in 2019 that Trump told aides he was ‘saving’ Barrett to replace Ginsburg.

Her deep Catholic faith was cited by Democrats as a large disadvantage during her 2017 confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

‘If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am,’ Barrett responded during that hearing, ‘although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.’

Republicans now believe that she performed well in her defense during this hearing, leaving her potentially capable of doing the same if facing the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She is a former member of the Notre Dame’s ‘Faculty for Life’ and in 2015 signed a letter to the Catholic Church affirming the ‘teachings of the Church as truth.’

Among those teachings were the ‘value of human life from conception to natural death’ and marriage-family values ‘founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman’.

She has previously written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct. Liberals have taken these comments as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

Barrett wrote that she agrees ‘with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it’.

Among the other statements that have cause concern for liberal are her declaration that ObamaCare’s birth control mandate is ‘grave violation of religious freedom.’

LGBTQ organizations also voiced their concern about her when she was first named on the shortlist.  

She has also sided with Trump on immigration. 

In a case from June 2020, IndyStar reports that she was the sole voice on a three-judge panel that supported allowing federal enforcement of Trump’s public charge immigration law in Illinois, 

The law would have prevented immigrants from getting legal residency in the United States if they rely on public benefits like food stamps or housing vouchers.  

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Who is Barbara Lagoa? 

Barbara Lagoa , 52, was named by Trump as one of his potential nominees to the Supreme Court. 

A Cuban American who parents fled to the U.S., Lagoa was born in Miami in 1967. She grew up in the largely Cuban American city of Hialeah.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, her parents fled Cuba over five decades ago when Fidel Castro’s Communist dictatorship took over. 

During the 2019 news conference in Miami announcing her appointment to the Supreme Court, she told the crowd that her father had to give up his ‘dream of becoming a lawyer’ because of Castro. 

If nominated to the nation’s high court by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, the mother of three daughters would be the second Latino justice to ever serve.

She served on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for less than a year after being appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate on an 80-15 vote

Prior to that she also spent less than a year in her previous position as the first Latina and Cuban American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

Lagoa is considered a protégé of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally.

Her position in crucial swing state Florida could help Trump politically.

Last week, she voted in the majority in a ruling that barred hundreds of thousands of Florida felons who have served their time from voting unless they pay fees and fines owed to the state.

This decision could have a major impact on the presidential race as Florida is often won by a candidate by only razor-thin margins.

‘Florida’s felon re-enfranchisement scheme is constitutional,’ Lagoa wrote in a 20-page concurrence, according to USA Today.

‘It falls to the citizens of the state of Florida and their elected state legislators, not to federal judges, to make any additional changes to it.’

In 2000 Lagoa was one of a dozen mostly pro bono lawyers who represented the Miami family of Elián González, a Cuban citizen who became embroiled in a heated international custody and immigration controversy.

In 2016 while in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, she wrote an opinion reversing the conviction of Adonis Losada, a former Univision comic actor sentenced to 153 years in prison for collecting child porn. 

She ruled that a Miami-Dade judge erred in not allowing Losada to defend himself at trial. 

That same month she became unpopular with free press advocates when she was one of three judges who allowed a Miami judge to close a courtroom to the public for a key hearing in a high-profile murder case. 

They ruled that publicity surrounding the machete murder of a student in Homestead might unfairly sway jurors at a future trial. 

Lagoa is a graduate of Florida International University and Columbia University Law.

She is is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which stresses that judges should ‘say what the law is, not what it should be.’

She is married to lawyer Paul C. Huck Jr., and her father-in-law is United States District Judge Paul Huck. 

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