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Judiciary panel slates October 22 vote for Barrett as witnesses weigh in at fourth day of hearings

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett on October 22, setting up her confirmation by the end of the month.

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Alex Rogers
Paul LeBlanc, CNN
CNN — The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett on October 22, setting up her confirmation by the end of the month.

"This is an outstanding nominee," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday. "We have the votes."

"This whole business of confirming judges has been, I think, the most important thing we've done," he added.

At the fourth day of Barrett's confirmation hearings, Democratic senators moved to indefinitely delay the proceedings because millions of Americans are voting for the next president. They argued that there's never been a Supreme Court justice nominated this close to the election and confirmed before it. The Senate has taken half the average time to consider the nomination.

"She has been rushed in a way that is historically unprecedented," said Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. "There's never been a nomination in an election year after the month of July, and the purpose of doing it is simply to have a justice on the Supreme Court, as the President said, to decide the election, and to strike down the Affordable Care Act."

Republicans disagreed, saying that a Republican president and a Republican-led Senate confirming a conservative justice on the Supreme Court is compliant with the Constitution and the Senate's history.

"The precedent is clear," said Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. "If the President and Senate are of the same party, the Senate, in all but extraordinary circumstances, confirms that nominee."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said that Democrats should try to win elections if they wanted to confirm Supreme Court justices.

"Y'all have a good chance of winning the White House," he said. "I don't know where the polls are going to be."

"Thank you for acknowledging that," Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota interjected.

The Senate Judiciary committee also heard from witnesses on Thursday, who offered competing arguments over the Supreme Court nomination.

They hailed from an assortment of backgrounds. The Republicans' witnesses spoke to Barrett's legal credentials, while Democrats chose witnesses that told their personal experiences grappling with the sweeping issues that come before the Court.

Two Republican-tapped witnesses, Randal Noel and Pamela Roberts from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, explained why the American Bar Association found Barrett to be "well qualified" to serve on the high court.

Saikrishna Prakash, a professor of law at the University of Virginia, retired Judge Thomas Griffith, who sat on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, Laura Wolk, who was a student of Barrett's at Notre Dame Law School, and Amanda Rauh-Bieri, who clerked for Barrett on the 7th Circuit, all also testified in Barrett's favor.

The Democratic witnesses brought a mix of expert voices and personal stories to discuss hot-button issues including protections provided under the Affordable Care Act and access to abortion.

Stacy Staggs, a mother of 7-year-old twins who have multiple pre-existing conditions, and Dr. Farhan Bhatti, the CEO of Care Free Medical, respectively warned that Barrett could undermine the 2010 health care law in an upcoming case and testified to the benefits of it.

Crystal Good, who obtained an abortion as a teenager, testified to the importance of reproductive rights, while Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Barrett posed a threat to civil rights protected under the Constitution.

The witness testimonies capped a week of hearings in which Barrett repeatedly decline to preview how she would rule in particular cases.

Beyond health care and abortion, Democrats have questioned Barrett on her positions and writings on gun rights, voting rights and whether she would recuse herself on election disputes involving the President.

But Barrett has repeatedly declined to engage with the senators' questions, citing a standard by the justice she would replace, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to not discuss cases that she could decide.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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