Democrats led the way, accusing Republicans of a hypocritical power grab by rushing to fill a seat so close to an election, after refusing to do so in 2016, when Democrats put forward a nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick B. Garland, nine months before the balloting. The reasons, they argued, were abundantly clear: Republicans want a 6-to-3 conservative majority to strike down the Affordable Care Act, limit abortion rights and tip the presidential election to Mr. Trump if a dispute ends up before the court.
Urging them to reverse course, they warned that Republicans were setting a dangerous new precedent in an ever-escalating judicial war between the two parties that could irrevocably erode the legitimacy of the Senate and the courts themselves.
“This process is a caricature of illegitimacy,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and a former chairman of the committee. “The fact that we had a nominee before Justice Ginsburg was even buried in order to jam this nomination through before the election. That is a mark on the United States Senate, it will be a mark of a process of callous political power grab.”
Given that Democrats have few, if any, means to push the confirmation schedule back, the move to delay it was a largely symbolic act likely to be one of their last opportunities to protest the process.
Republicans countered that they had every right to proceed. Unlike in 2016, when the president was not standing for re-election and the Senate was controlled by a different party, Mr. Trump is on the ballot and his party controls the Senate. Besides, they said, Republicans would do the same.
“I recognize our Democratic friends wish there was a Democratic majority in the Senate, but the voters decided otherwise,” said Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. “So this committee moving forward is consistent with over 200 years of history.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from witnesses on the final day of hearings.
After two days of grilling by the judiciary panel, Judge Barrett is not appearing on Thursday, as the panel debates approving her nomination and two panels of witnesses testify for and against it.