Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday began meeting with senators who are expected to vote soon on her confirmation.
Barrett kicked off the traditional charm offensive with a three-minute press gaggle with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Mike Pence.
“We’re pleased today to welcome Judge Barrett to begin the process of advise and consent in the Senate. And if you know she’ll be visiting with members who are interested in talking to her during the course of the next few days,” McConnell said.
“We’re glad to have her here and glad to get the process started.”
Barrett, 48, was nominated on Saturday by President Trump and the trip is one of the first steps in a bitter partisan fight before the Nov. 3 election. She wore a blue dress and white pearl necklace for her Senate meetings and did not address reporters.
Pence, who would break a theoretical Senate tie vote, praised his fellow Indianan, who currently is a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
The vice president called Barrett “an extraordinary American” and “someone of great character, of great intellect, who has a judicial philosophy that will uphold the Constitution of the United States.”
“We urge our Democratic colleagues in the Senate to take the opportunity to meet with Judge Barrett and as the hearing goes forward, to provide the kind of respectful hearing that the American people expect,” Pence said.
“We look forward to a vote in the Senate in the near future, and to fill the seat on the Supreme Court of the United States because the American people deserve a justice like Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and the American people deserve nine justices on the Supreme Court of the United States.”
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also joined Barrett.
Many Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) already are refusing to meet with Barrett, a favorite among religious conservatives who is considered likely to shift the ideological balance of the court if she replaces liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democrats feel cheated out of their own opportunity to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, when McConnell refused to hold a vote on then-President Barack Obama’s nominee Judge Merrick Garland, saying voters should decide.
Schumer (D-NY) tweeted Tuesday morning that he won’t meet with Barrett, joining a growing list of Democrats — including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
“I am not going to meet with Judge Barrett. Why would I meet with a nominee of such an illegitimate process and one who is determined to get rid of the Affordable Care Act?” Schumer wrote.
Gillibrand wrote, “This nomination process is illegitimate. I refuse to participate in the further degradation of our democracy and our judiciary.”
Republicans say the situation is different than with Garland’s failed nomination in 2016 because one party now controls both the Senate and White House.
So far just two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — said they want to delay a vote until after the election. Republicans hold 53 seats and at least 50 senators must vote for the nominee.