During First Day Of Questioning, Durbin Highlights What Is At Stake With Nomination Of Judge Barrett To The Supreme Court

Durbin: Future Of The Affordable Care Act, Commonsense Gun Safety Laws, Voting Rights At Stake With Nomination Of Judge Barrett

WASHINGTON – On the second day of the Supreme Court nomination hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today once again 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 Affordable Care Act (ACA) just one week after the November 3, 2020, election. 

Durbin shared the health care story of the Williams family of Naperville, Illinois.  Cathy and Les Williams have four sons – Matt, Joey, Tommy, and Mikey.  Matt, who is 27, was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when he was 13.  The other three Williams boys were all born with cystic fibrosis.  Joey is 24, and Mikey is 21.  Sadly, Mikey’s twin, Tommy, passed away in January 2019 from complications of cystic fibrosis.  Because of the ACA, Cathy and Les have been able to keep their sons on their insurance plan up to age 26, and maintain coverage—to afford expensive medications and doctor’s visits—without being charged more or denied care due to their pre-existing conditions.

“This is the Williams family.  They live in Naperville… here’s what they wrote me: ‘We cannot imagine having to go through losing another child.  People with cystic fibrosis require daily medications and regular doctor’s visits and need access to high-quality, specialized care and adequate and affordable, coverage—that means people with pre-existing conditions, like cystic fibrosis, cannot be discriminated against.  The ACA’s protections also ensure a ban on annual and lifetime caps and enforce the requirement that insurers cover essential health benefits, such as hospitalizations or mental health services.  People with CF and other pre-existing conditions need adequate, affordable health care to live longer, healthier lives.’  That’s why we keep bringing this up—real people that we run into all of the time,” Durbin said. 

During his questioning, Durbin also pressed Judge Barrett on the 2019 7th Circuit case Kanter v. Barr, where Judge Barrett dissented from an opinion by two other Republican-appointed judges on the question of gun possession by convicted felons.  Judge Barrett’s dissent argued that longstanding laws denying gun possession to all felons were unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiff, who was convicted of the felony of mail fraud.   In her dissent, Judge Barrett also attempted to distinguish felony disenfranchisement laws, which bar people convicted of felonies from voting, from felony gun possession laws.   She drew this distinction on the grounds that, among other things, voting is a civic right that historically “belonged only to virtuous citizens,” and that the right to bear arms is not. 

“There’s also a question as to whether the commission of a felony disqualifies you from voting in America,” Durbin asked. “The Sentencing Project today has found that more than six million Americans can’t vote because of a felony conviction and one out of every 13 Black Americans has lost their voting rights.  I raise that because in your dissent you said that disqualifying a person from voting because of a felony is okay.  But when it comes to the possession of firearms, wait a minute, we are talking about the ‘individual right’ of the Second Amendment.  But what we are talking in voting is a ‘civic right’ or ‘community right,’ however you defined it.  So you are saying that a felony should not disqualify Rickey Kanter from buying a firearm, but using a felony conviction in someone’s past to deny them the right to vote is alright?”

Judge Barrett did not directly respond to Durbin’s question.

Durbin concluded, “The conclusion of this is hard to swallow.  The notion that Mr. Kanter, after all that he did, should not be even be slowed down when he’s on his way to buying a firearm… and then to turn around on the other hand and say that when it comes to taking away a person’s right to vote, that’s a civic duty, something we can countenance… that was thinking in the 19th century that resulted in voter suppression and taking away the right to vote from millions of African Americans across this country and it still is continuing to this day… I think the right to vote should be given at least as much respect as any Second Amendment right.”

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.