With Republicans poised to confirm Barrett, their Senate majority hangs in the balance

There are 35 Senate seats up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election.

Updated: October 16, 2020 - 8:39am

With Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett wrapped up on Thursday and a date announced for a committee vote on moving the nomination to the Senate floor, senators up for reelection now turn their attention to campaigning — with partisan control of the Senate hanging in the balance.

The Democratic Party's massive fundraising in crucial Senate races is raising concerns among some Senate Republicans who are anxious to depart Capitol Hill to campaign in their home states.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly warned GOP leaders that the Democrats are "on fire" due to fundraising totals ahead of the Nov. 3rd election. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a member of the Judiciary Committee, has said he is "worried" about the election.

"I think we either win the presidency and win the Senate, or we lose the presidency and lose the Senate, and I very much hope it's the former and not the latter," he said. "And it depends on turnout. It depends on who shows up. That's one of the reasons I think the confirmation battle over Judge Barrett is so important."

Some organizations like Cook Political Report and Five Thirty Eight are now predicting that Democrats will take back the Senate majority, which they lost in 2014.

Right now, Republicans have 53 Senate seats and Democrats have 47, if the two independents that caucus with Democrats are counted. Less than half of the 35 Senate races taking place in November are toss-ups.

Democrats have to pick up four seats to win a majority in the Senate. The party could gain the majority with only three flipped seats, if Joe Biden wins the White House. Key races to watch are Arizona, South Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and Michigan.

Members on the Senate Judiciary Committee up for reelection, like Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas, have been tied up for most of this week with confirmation hearings and unable to campaign, which has given their challengers an advantage.

McConnell said the full Senate might vote on a $500 billion coronavirus economic stimulus package before Nov. 3, which would further cut into the campaign time for sitting senators up for reelection. Graham announced a committee vote on Barrett's nomination would take place on Oct. 22.

It remains to be seen if the effort to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat close to the election has energized the Democratic base more than the Republican base or visa versa.

Democrats have tried to make Barrett's confirmation a referendum on Obamacare, given that oral arguments in the California v. Texas case are scheduled to take place soon after the election. During her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Barrett declined to say how she would vote in that particular case.

"I will repeat what I said throughout this hearing: that I made no promises to anyone," Barrett said. "I have no agenda."

In the midst of the Barrett confirmation fight, Democrats have found themselves on the defensive trying to evade identification with a broadly unpopular court-packing strategy without dampening voter enthusiasm among the party's progressive base.

Democrats seem to be leaving the door open on expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court if they gain a majority in the Senate, win the White House and maintain control of the House.

During the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, Biden declined to say if he would seek to expand the Supreme Court and nominate justices to fill the added seats. He later ducked several subsequent questions on the topic. On Tuesday, Biden told a local news outlet in Ohio that he's "not a fan of court packing."

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Just the News on Monday after the first confirming hearing that expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court, or court-packing, is an "ongoing debate in American jurisprudence."

Cruz predicted that Democrats would pack the court if they hold the House and win the White House as well as the majority in the Senate.

"Today's Democrats are completely radicalized," Cruz told Just the News in a statement. "If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win in November, they will pack the Supreme Court. And Chuck Schumer will end the filibuster to help them do it.

"That's why they don't want to answer any questions about it to the point where it's gotten bizarre. But make no mistake: If the Democrats get power, they will pack the court, politicize it, and destroy its independence."

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