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3 Missouri Democrats urge senators to halt Judge Barrett SCOTUS confirmation

Three Missouri Democrats signed onto an open letter to the U.S. Senate urging a moratorium on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State Rep. Sarah Unsicker, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, and St. Louis Alderwoman Heather Navarro are among the more than 400 officials from around the country who put their names on the letter calling for federal leaders to turn their focus on support for states and local communities rather than the confirmation. 

“The recent outbreak of COVID-19 on Capitol Hill and in the White House makes it clear that the real emergency is getting this pandemic under control, not rushing through a lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court,” the letter said. “The Senate should prioritize the health of the senators, their staff, and all those who work to keep the buildings safe and operational — as well as the health of our constituents, who have gone months without any COVID-19 relief from the federal government — and cancel the hearings.” 

Barrett is the third person President Trump has nominated to the nation’s highest court during his tenure. This week, she’s been fielding from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which turned its attention to expert witnesses Thursday. 

If confirmed to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who became a liberal icon — Barrett is expected to further shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court to the right and signees worry about what that could mean for the future of the Affordable Care Act.

And her confirmation — just before a presidential election — has been reminiscent of 2016 when Republican senators blocked President Obama from naming a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia prior to the presidential election. 

“It’s hypocrisy on steroids,” Jones, a former state representative, told The Missouri Times in an interview. Instead of the confirmation hearings, she urged lawmakers to focus on a relief package, like Democrats’ HEROES Act, to help individuals as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact economies. 

“We should have followed the lead of several other countries, including Canada, by offering basic income during the pandemic,” Jones said. “There also should have been a better response in testing and making sure that people have access to testing.” 

Unsicker, too, said she is continuing to hear concerns from her constituents about economic fallout over COVID-19 and hoped the pandemic would still be addressed — at both the federal and state level. 

“Missouri is suffering right now,” Unsicker said. “We really need help to reduce the spread of the pandemic and make our citizens healthier.” 

More than 150,000 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 this year and more than 2,400 have died. Nationally, more than 7.8 million people have contracted the virus and more than 215,000 have died, according to CDC data. 

The letter was put together by five left-leaning groups: SiX Action, Local Progress, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NOBEL Women, and Young Elected Officials (YEO). 

“State and local leaders are at the frontlines of this pandemic, taking care of their communities and hearing every day from Americans who are worried about their health care,” Jessie Ulibarri, the co-executive director of SiX Action, said. “These public leaders are asking the Senate to listen to the American people and focus on getting our nation on the road to recovery from this health care crisis — not on rushing through a nominee that will end protections for preexisting conditions as COVID cases continue to surge across the country.” 

Republican officials in Missouri, however, have supported approving Barrett to the court, including Gov. Mike Parson. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, too, signed onto a letter to the Senate earlier this month pushing for her confirmation. 

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