“We’re focused on the issues and the merits. And on the illegitimacy of the process. We are not focusing on the personal characteristics of Amy Coney Barrett. Zero,” Schumer said. “The Republicans are so afraid of the issues of health care and women’s reproductive rights … they’re trying to create a diversion.”
Senators have been preparing for the possibility of a vacancy for months. Senate Republicans vowed in May that they’d fill an opening this year, shortly after Ginsburg was hospitalized. That same month, Senate Democratic leadership and Judiciary Committee aides began to plan for a possible vacancy, according to a Democratic leadership aide. In these discussions, Democrats strategized on their messaging, including maintaining a focus on health care.
With no procedural tools to stop Barrett from getting confirmed to the Supreme Court, the only weapon Democrats have is messaging. But Brian Fallon, executive director of the liberal Demand Justice group, says that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have been “sleepwalking” so far.
“Dianne Feinstein, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin have been going around sulking about how the Republicans have the votes. And they ought to be convincing the country about what a partisan power grab this is,” said Fallon, whose group is spending millions against Barrett’s nomination. “Get passionate.”
Coons responded that he will be as “passionate and forceful” as he can be.
“There are some folks who are literally never happy no matter what we do,” he said.
Democrats will scrutinize Barrett’s previous writings on Obamacare, including her criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts for ruling to uphold the law. Her views on abortion will also come up. She has described abortion as “always immoral,” but she’s also suggested that Roe v. Wade will endure in some form.
“This nominee poses a clear and present danger to everybody’s health care, that should be uppermost in everyone’s minds, but that’s only the start,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee. “She has a position on abortion.”
Democrats hope their questions create tension between the committee’s conservatives who want the ACA repealed and Roe struck down and those up for reelection who are staying away from such suggestions.
Schumer refused to directly comment on how Senate Republicans’ confirmation of Barrett might affect key Senate races. Ever the optimist, he said that this is a fight like the one to save Obamacare, when Schumer helped convince former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to tank his party’s repeal effort.
“This is our job to push this as hard we can, knowing it’s not an easy fight, knowing that Trump is a vindictive guy and anyone who goes against him has suffered,” Schumer said of Senate Republicans who tangle with the president.
Yet there were always enough senators complaining about Obamacare repeal to conceivably tank the bill. When it comes to Barrett, only two of 53 GOP senators oppose her confirmation before the election. Getting two more looks borderline impossible.
Democrats are “making this far-fetched argument that somehow this is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy against the ACA.” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas.), a Judiciary committee member. As for potential drama at the hearing, he observed: “I don’t think it’s so much about what we [Republicans] do but what they do.”
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.
Turkey earthquake: Search for survivors continues
The search for survivors in Izmir, Turkey continues after a
Work continued through the night to search for survivors in buildings that were destroyed as a result of the earthquake.
Around 100 survivors have been pulled out alive from the rubble so far, Turkey’s Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum told reporters.
However many people are still trapped and aftershocks have hampered rescue workers.
Poland’s biggest protests in decades stand against abortion ban
Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said more than 100,000 people were in attendance, while protest organizers put the figure at 150,000.
Police detained 37 people Friday evening, the vast majority of whom were football hooligans, Sylwester Marczak, spokesman for the Warsaw Police headquarters, said Saturday morning. Taking into account the huge number of participants, it was a “very peaceful” protest, he added.
Demonstrations of this scale were last seen in the Solidarity movement of the 1980s in Poland which led to the collapse of the government, analysts say.
Demonstrators also turned out in Gdańsk, Białystok, Poznan, Kraków, Wroclaw, Torun, Sczescin, Myślenice, Gorlice and Jasło on Friday.
According to local media, 430,000 people attended more than 400 demonstrations across the country against the ban on Wednesday. Online supporters are using the tag #ThisIsWar to show solidarity with those marching.
The protests have been taking place in defiance of a ban on gatherings of more than five people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Aerial footage of the demonstration in Warsaw posted to social media showed the vast scale of the turnout there on Friday evening.
Protest organizers urged protesters to make their way towards the residence of Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party Leader (PiS) who is widely seen as the de facto decision maker in Poland. The demonstration ended there at around 11 p.m. local time and organizers urged protesters to make their way home safely.
Kaczyński on Wednesday called the protesters “criminals” and said people taking part in mass gatherings were endangering people’s lives given the surge in coronavirus cases in Poland.
In an apparent softening of his stance, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday submitted a draft amendment to the controversial law which would legalize abortion in situations where the baby has “lethal defects” and would die soon after birth.
The amendment would mean abortion would remain legal in an event where “prenatal tests or other medical indications indicate a high probability that the child will be born still or burdened with an incurable disease or defect that will lead to the death of the child inevitably and directly,” according to a statement from Duda on Friday.
“It is an extremely delicate and painful situation for every mother, for every parent. In the case of lethal defects, the death of the child is inevitable. The protection of his life is therefore beyond human power,” the statement also said.
Duda had earlier clarified his stance on abortion in such cases in an interview with Polish radio station RMF FM. “You must clearly ask yourself whether anyone has the right to demand, or the law may require such a woman to… bear such a child in her womb and then bear the entire physical cost of birth,” Duda said.
Duda added that he did not think abortion should be legal in situations where a child has Down syndrome, for example, and the life of the unborn child is not at risk.
The ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal removed one of the few remaining grounds for legal termination in the country, which already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.
Abortions due to fetal defects comprised approximately 98% of all legal abortions carried out in Poland in 2019, according to data from the Polish Ministry of Health.
“If we are talking about acts of physical or verbal aggression, if we are talking about invading churches, if we are talking about insulting religious feelings, profaning places of worship, I am sorry, but the boundaries are definitely exceeded here,” he said.
Abortion rights protest leaders have accused the populist PiS party of pushing the court to tighten abortion restrictions in order to please the party’s base, and the Church. Church leaders have denied influencing the change in law.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday urged protesters not to go out on the streets as he announced further steps to try to limit the spread of Covid-19.
“I understand your anger, but I urge you to stay at home, especially for the sake of seniors,” he said.
The measures include closing cemeteries for three days, urging business owners to allow employees to work from home and urging older citizens to remain at home.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told Polish news channel TVN24 on Friday that he looked with “great concern” at the protests and urged people to isolate themselves from those taking part, saying they could be more exposed to Covid-19.
On Friday, Poland recorded 21,629 new coronavirus cases, marking another record high in the country, where case counts have tripled in less than a month. A further 202 deaths were also reported by the Polish Health Ministry, with the total number of confirmed infections in the country surpassing 340,000.
CNN’s Zahid Mahmood contributed to this report.
Coronavirus: Hungary and Poland see record cases
Greece is the latest country to announce a partial lockdown, with restaurants and other leisure activities closed in major Greek cities from Tuesday. “We must act now, before intensive care units buckle under the strain of lives in danger,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday. Greece has not seen as many cases as other parts of Europe, but there has been a steady increase since early October
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