Mindful of their own political risks, Republicans tried to set political traps for Democrats, predicting that they would seek to vilify Judge Barrett, a mother of seven whose orthodox Catholic faith shapes her life, as they did with Justice Kavanaugh in 2018.
“The nominee will be challenged, and that is appropriate to challenge the nominee,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Saturday night on Fox News. “But if they treat Judge Barrett like they did Justice Kavanaugh, it will blow up in their face big time.”
Specifically, Republicans want to recreate a 2017 Judiciary Committee hearing on Judge Barrett’s nomination to the appeals court, when Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the panel’s top Democrat, told Judge Barrett that, “the dogma lives loudly within you,” and raised concerns about her impartiality as a judge given her staunch Catholic faith. Conservatives charged that Democrats were attacking religion and had the phrase emblazoned on T-shirts.
“There is a long history of anti-Catholic hatred by some in this country, and a growing tide of anti-religious animus on the left now, and I hope you and your colleagues will not play any further part in it,” Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican member of the committee, wrote on Saturday in a letter to Mr. Schumer.
Democrats see little upside in dwelling on Judge Barrett’s personal views or her fervent religious belief, even though many of them consider her opinions to be extreme and fear they would influence her decisions on the bench.
“My challenge to her is not going to be personal,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “It is about breaking the norms in this sham, rushed, illegitimate process, and about her advocacy of breaking with established precedent and views that are extreme right wing.”
Mr. Schumer appeared to have the unified support of his caucus so far in opposing Judge Barrett’s nomination. But progressive activists are demanding a more aggressive strategy around the confirmation process itself, pressuring him to exploit Senate procedure to try to detain Republicans fighting for re-election in Washington for much of October, when they hoped to be in their home states, and discredit the proceedings to the public.