Durbin: Republicans Jamming Supreme Court Nomination Through at Breakneck Speed & Disregarding Pandemic and Risk to Affordable Care Act

Durbin calls on Judge Barrett to delay her swearing-in until after the next president is sworn-in

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today once again slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) single-minded focus on rushing through President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court instead of focusing on the urgent needs of the American people, including comprehensive bipartisan legislation to respond to the grave public health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Durbin also called on Judge Amy Coney Barrett to delay her swearing-in if she is confirmed by the Senate until after the swearing-in of the new president, given the cloud cast over her nomination by President Trump’s comments about his nominee’s expected role in any election contest and in the November 10 Supreme Court case to decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

“The American people would rightly think that we would be doing everything imaginable, everything within our power to address this pandemic in this rare five day session leading up to a national election.   But they would be wrong.  They would be wrong because that is not the priority in the Senate,” Durbin said.  “The priority in the Republican-controlled Senate is the filling of a vacancy on the Supreme Court.”

Durbin continued, “If this Senate goes forward and approves the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, she has one last decision before she becomes a Supreme Court Justice.  She gets to choose the day when she’s sworn in.  I would like to suggest to her, for the integrity of the Court and to remove any possible cloud over her nomination created by the President’s tweets and promises, I would like to ask her to pledge to the American people that whatever the Senate does, she will not take the oath of office until a new president is sworn in… if she will wait and absent herself from any election contest or debate on the Affordable Care Act, it will start to remove this orange cloud of doubt over her nomination.” 

During his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin slammed Senate Republicans’ reversal on filling a Supreme Court vacancy in a presidential election year and argued it is a thinly-veiled effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after numerous failed attempts to undo the law in Congress.  Durbin emphasized the dangerous repercussions of filling this judicial vacancy without voters’ input as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the fate of the law just one week after the November 3, 2020, election. 

“The nominee Amy Coney Barrett comes before us for a vote of confirmation tomorrow… the reason it has to be rushed from the Republican point of view, the reason they are hell bent to get this done before the election, is directly related to the pandemic,” Durbin said.  “The filling of this vacancy in an extraordinary way… is because of one day that is coming up, November 10.  You see, on November 10, the Supreme Court of the United States considers the case ofCalifornia v. Texas… the purpose of that case is for Attorneys General in Republican states and the Attorney General of the United States to strike down the Affordable Care Act.  They want to make sure that Amy Coney Barrett has black robes on and is sitting in the Supreme Court when it is argued so she can be there when the critical vote to eliminate the Affordable Care Act occurs.” 

Durbin shared the health care story of a constituent, Alex Echols of Chicago, Illinois.  When Alex was nine, two of his mother’s best friends were diagnosed with breast cancer and ultimately passed away before they reached the age of 50.  As Alex moved into high school, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Thankfully, his mother was able to get treatment and today is nearing 20 years of complete remission.  

Later in high school, Alex lost his younger cousin to leukemia.  Shortly thereafter, his aunt also passed away from lung cancer.  Alex emphasized that all of these Black relatives and friends had their cancer discovered at a late stage, demonstrating a discrepancy in early screening for communities of color.  The Affordable Care Act helped to address this disparity by ensuring free preventive screenings, including in private insurance. 

When Alex was 29, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Alex was uninsured at the time, but thanks to the ACA, he was able to get enrolled and access the care he needed—receiving treatment at several hospitals in Chicago, and ultimately receiving chemotherapy and a life-saving bone-marrow transplant at the University of Chicago.  Today, Alex is in complete remission.  He lives in Chicago with his wife, and is active in leadership training programs and advocacy.

“He [Alex] wrote me a note and he said, ‘If it were not for the ACA and being able to gain access to health care at that time, then I am not sure I would be alive right now to share my story.’  Why do I tell you that story?  Because the future of his health care depends on filling this nomination to the Supreme Court and whether the person who fills it is going to eliminate this law and protections or protect it,” Durbin said. 

Durbin also shared the health care story of Paul Marshilonus, who lives on the Southwest side of Chicago.  Due to complications of a knee condition, Paul was no longer able to work at the local Sears and he lost his employer-based insurance when he was in his early 60s.  Then Paul received a prostate cancer diagnosis when he was 63 years old and was too young for Medicare.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Paul was enrolled in the CountyCare Medicaid expansion coverage.  

He was able to access the care he needed, including 45 radiation treatments which totaled an insurance cost of more than $175,000.  Today, Paul is cancer-free.  He still depends on the ACA for free preventive screenings under Medicare. 

“He [Paul] currently takes seven medications, blood thinners, allergy medication, and blood pressure medication.  If the ACA were to be eliminated, he would be charged more for these prescription drugs,” Durbin said.  “If Republicans succeed in terminating the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court, Americans like Paul will pay the price.”  

Durbin concluded, “I will stand up for the constituents I talked about today and so many others whose futures hang in the balance.  And I will vote no on Judge Amy Coney Barrett.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here. 

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.