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Wisconsin politicians still divided as Supreme Court confirmation hearings begin

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett waits to testify at her senate confirmation hearing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett waits to testify at her senate confirmation hearing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(WKOW) -- The first steps to confirm President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court started Monday, and Wisconsin leaders are still divided over the contentious process.

Hearings began Monday morning, as Judge Amy Coney Barrett shared why she believes she's the right pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee began questioning her on her record.

During a call with reporters Monday morning, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said he's confident his colleagues in Washington have a duty to confirm the president's nominee, despite being in the opposite position when President Obama made a nomination shortly before the 2016 election.

"We're following this norm and precedent where you have a president and a Senate majority of the same party," he said. "Right now, there's no tie to break. We're the same party. The president will nominate, we'll confirm. That is the norm, That is the precedent."

If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, the court would have six conservative-leaning justices and three liberal-leaning justices.

Democrats say now is not the time for federal lawmakers to focus on this process.

"Instead of focusing on a coronavirus relief package, which is so critically needed, we're seeing an effort instead to rush through a Supreme Court confirmation," said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.

His party is worried what a stronger conservative majority might mean for a pending case that aims to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

"If a third Trump nominee is confirmed to the Supreme Court, the risk that the court will in fact strike down the ACA and end affordable health insurance coverage for more than 20 million Americans, end protections for people with pre-existing conditions, end the guaranteed young adults on parents health insurance. The odds of that happening will go up significantly," Kaul said on a Zoom call Monday afternoon.

Kaul joined health care advocates to raise concerns about the future of Obamacare.

Cancer survivor Renee Gasch, from De Pere, said ending pre-existing conditions could destroy families like hers.

"When you're living with cancer, toxic stress is your enemy. And there's nothing more stressful than thinking about the Supreme Court overturning the Affordable Care Act and all of the protections for people with pre-existing conditions," she said. "Before I was just worried about dying, now I'm afraid I'm going to bankrupt my family first."

Sen. Johnson acknowledges the changes that will come to the court if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, but believes the process will end up adding a justice supported by voters.

He said he's concerned if Joe Biden wins the election he would push to add more justices to the court, in an attempt at balancing the members.

Biden has not answered that question so far during the campaign.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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