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U.S. Sen. John Kennedy began his questioning of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett by mocking Sen. Kamala Harris and her line of inquiry.
The Louisiana Republican asked Barrett several questions as he began his time at the confirmation hearing, calling attention to the absurd questions his Democratic colleague put forth just moments before. Kennedy gave the nominee a chance to respond to the “accusations” made by Harris as she tried to get her to give her opinion on several topics including racial discrimination, the Voting Rights Act and climate change.
Harris leveled several criticisms at the Trump administration in her set up for questioning Barrett, and during the exchange, pressed the nominee for her opinions on different issues.
“If a case that comes before you would require you to consider scientific evidence, my question is will you defer to scientists and those with expertise in the relevant issues before rendering a judgment?” the Democratic vice presidential nominee asked the judge.
“If a case comes before me involving environmental regulation, I will certainly apply all applicable law deferring when the law requires me to,” Barrett replied.
“Do you accept that COVID-19 is infectious?” Harris asked.
Barrett called it an “obvious fact,” agreeing with the California Democrat who then asked if the judge accepts that smoking causes cancer.
“I’m not sure exactly where you’re going with this,” Barrett said. “Yes, every package of cigarettes warns that smoking causes cancer.”
“And you believe climate change is happening and threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?” Harris continued.
But Barrett pushed back, noting that the senator was trying to get her opinion on “a very contentious matter of public debate and I will not do that.”
“I will not express views on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial,” Barrett added.
“Thank you, Judge Barrett, and you’ve made your point that you believe it’s a debatable point,” Harris interrupted.
After her time concluded, Kennedy began his questioning by focusing back to Harris’s exchange.
“Let’s try to answer some of Senator Harris’ accusations,” he said. “Are you a racist?”
“I am not a racist, Senator Kennedy,” Barrett said,
“Do you support in all cases corporations over working people?” the GOP lawmaker asked.
“I do not, and I think if you look at my record, you will see cases in which I’ve decided for plaintiffs, not corporations,” Barrett responded.
“Are you against clean air, bright water, and environmental justice?” Kennedy went on.
“I am not against any of those things,” Barrett replied. “Those are policies that the Congress has pursued in many statutes and I think we all reap the benefits of when those statutes work.”
She affirmed that she supports science as well as “children and prosperity.”
“I support children. Seven of my own and then support others, obviously, children are our future, I support children and yes, I support prosperity,” she said.
“Do you hate little warm puppies?” Kennedy asked, prompting the nominee to laugh as she confirmed that she does not hate the puppies.
“Senator Harris is my friend and I get it, she’s running for vice president,” Kennedy said, as he turned his attention on calling out the Democrat he referred to as his “good friend.”
“She thinks that America is systemically racist. I don’t. I think that our history is the best evidence of that,” he said of Harris.
“I don’t think we’re a racist country,” he added. “I think we are a country that has some racists in it. But I’m very proud of the fact that our country has gone from, in 150 years…gone from institutionalized slavery to an African-American president.”
“I have an enormous amount of respect for Kamala. She suggested that some states are wicked and other states are pristine and I would gently remind her that California, a state I love… has a deep history of discrimination against Asian-Americans,” the Louisiana Republican continued.
“California has a deep history of discrimination against Hispanics,” Kennedy added. “And I’m not saying this is true, but there have been serious allegations made against Senator Harris, that as attorney general of the wonderful state of California, that she participated in racial disparities in prosecution.”
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