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Senate Democrats pull procedural stunts in bid to thwart vote on Supreme Court nominee Barrett

"Under the rules of this committee you cannot proceed," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at the start of the meeting.

Updated: October 15, 2020 - 4:02pm

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Just as Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer pledged, Democrats on Thursday tried to throw roadblocks into the path of a vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court.

The stunts began shortly after Thursday's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee opened. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was the only Democrat to show up to the committee's initial markup. He quickly made a motion to end the meeting because there were not two minority members present as required to make a quorum — exactly as Schumer promised to do.

"Under the rules of this committee you cannot proceed with the business of the committee, even with a quorum present, unless there are two members of the minority present as well," Durbin told committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at the start of the meeting. "I want to take official note of the fact that I am the only member of the minority that is here."

Graham introduced the motion anyway and scheduled a committee vote on Barrett for 1 p.m. on Oct. 22. Other Democratic senators then began filing in.

But that wasn't the only stunt Democrats tried to pull. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) then made a motion to indefinitely delay the vote on Barrett. That led to open debate among the committee senators, who were gathered with the intent of hearing from witnesses who know Barrett and other experts on her judicial past.

"I believe that this rush, sham process is a disservice to our committee," Blumenthal said. "There has never been a nomination in an election year after the month of July."

"This is a sham," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said, adding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to move Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to a full vote in 2016. "He said the American people should have a voice in this election, of their next Supreme Court justice."

Blumenthal's motion eventually failed, but the hearing was delayed for two hours amid the debate. 

As the debate raged, Graham said: "I will let you decide what you do today. We're going to vote on the judge on Oct. 22. But I would prefer, if it's possible, we could hear from the panel, but I'll leave it up to my colleagues."

On Sunday, before Barrett's hearing began, Schumer said Democrats would not "supply quorum" for votes, effectively declaring that they'll boycott the process in an attempt to stall her confirmation.

In the full Senate, the quorum is 51 members, and, for the chamber's Judiciary Committee, a quorum is nine members, including two in the minority Democratic Party.

"We will talk about when the actual vote occurs in committee and on the floor," Schumer said in a press conference. "Democrats will not supply the quorum. Period."

But there are several ways around the move, Fox News reported:

"Most notably, the Senate can vote on a discharge resolution that would remove the responsibility of considering the Barrett nomination from the committee, allowing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to call the nomination for a full vote. The committee itself could also change its rules to get rid of the requirement that two Democrats be present, James Wallner, a senior resident fellow for governance at the R Street Institute told Fox News."

The Senate minority leader's delaying tactics came after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) predicted exactly that. Cruz said Sunday that Democrats will pull some "shenanigans" in an effort to delay Barrett's confirmation hearing.

"I think we're going to see, by the way, some more procedural games and shenanigans," he said. "I don't know what they're going to do, whether it's try to boycott meetings or try to impeach the president."

"I think they are looking for anything to delay things even a day or two or three," Cruz said.