Biden highlights the Supreme Court debate as a women’s issue

September 30, 2020, 2:00 AM UTC

Democratic candidate Joe Biden attempted to frame the potential appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a women’s issue during Tuesday night’s first presidential debate. If Barrett’s nomination is pushed through, he argued, women could see healthcare prices rise as Americans with pre-existing conditions—like pregnancy—are no longer protected from higher premiums and Roe v. Wade could be challenged. 

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments over the Affordable Care Act on November 10, where the Trump administration has filed briefings supporting those who seek to overturn the law. Barrett has spoken out against the court’s 2012 decision to uphold it.

Before Obamacare, insurance companies were not required to charge men and women the same price for care. Before the law was passed, 60% of insurance plans charged non-smoking women more than men who smoked, and only 13% of plans offered maternity benefits charge-free, which is now required, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Biden also mentioned that the legal right to abortion could be at risk with the appointment, which Trump challenged, saying Biden didn’t know Barrett’s official position on abortion. 

Many worry that Barrett, who is opposed to abortion and has spoken at length about her Catholic faith, will be the deciding factor in overturning Roe v. Wade. “I think don’t think the core case – Roe’s core holding that, you know, women have a right to an abortion – I don’t think that would change. But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, how many restrictions can be put on clinics – I think that would change,” she has said. 

Both Democrats and Republicans have sought to galvanize female voters with the Supreme Court fight. Suburban women, who were once thought to be a solid demographic for Republicans have been at play in the 2020 election, and the GOP is hoping to appeal to them with the nomination of a female justice. The majority of Americans (and suburban women), however, support Roe v. Wade

President Trump announced his nomination of Barrett this weekend, following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The President reportedly offered Barrett, who is 48, the opportunity on the same day he met her, just three days after Ginsburg passed away. 

Barrett delivered her 69-page nominee questionnaire to the Senate on Tuesday evening just hours before the debate. The document discusses monumental cases, includes financial disclosures (her net worth is $2.6 million), work history, and the nomination process itself. She also spent the day meeting with nine GOP senators on Capitol Hill in what was seen as a largely ceremonial gesture. Republicans, meanwhile, have been working at a rapid clip to get her nomination through the Senate as quickly as possible. At least three days of confirmation hearings will begin on October 12. Democrats, meanwhile, will use the next two weeks to attempt to search deep into Barrett’s history, looking for reasons as to why Barrett may be unqualified for the job all while objecting to the expedited process and figuring out how to delay a vote until after the election on November 3. 

In February 2016, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell argued that the Senate shouldn’t confirm a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia until after the election, a historic rebuke to the authority of the Obama administration. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” McConnell said. He’s since changed his tune, saying that this situation is different because the Senate and the presidency are both held by the same party, which wasn’t the case in 2016. 

“Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year,” McConnell said. There is no official rule of constitutional regulation that stops the seat from being filled as soon as the President issues a nomination for the seat. 

In Tuesday’s debate, Trump argued that Ginsburg herself said the President had a four-year term and could do whatever he wanted within it. “We won the election, and elections have consequences. We won the Senate and White House,” Trump said.

Biden argued that the 2020 election has already begun in earnest and that tens of thousands of Americans have already cast their votes. “We should wait,” he said.

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