Tuesday’s question-and-answer segment featured committee members pressing Judge Barrett for details about her judicial opinions and personal views, covering topics as varied as gun ownership, voting rights and same-sex marriage.
However, several senators, including Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, barely stopped to question Judge Barrett at all. They instead spent the bulk of their time expounding on larger questions about the ideological balance of the Supreme Court and the influence of special interest groups on the nomination process. And Mr. Graham, who is just weeks away from a tough re-election fight, used a significant portion of his time to deliver something close to a campaign speech.
After nearly 12 hours, and with many of the anticipated questions surrounding Judge Barrett’s relatively short record as a judge now asked and answered, more senators may pivot away from directing questions to the nominee on Wednesday. If they do, Judge Barrett may be afforded much less time to speak.
Many Democrats have already voiced their opposition to holding the hearing at all, arguing that the proximity to the election makes it inappropriate, and that the Senate has more pressing priorities given the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the recurring questions Judge Barrett fielded on Tuesday concerned her judicial independence and whether she would recuse herself in any election law cases related to the man who nominated her: President Trump.
Throughout the day, Judge Barrett emphasized that she had made no promises to Mr. Trump or anyone else about how she might rule in the future, even though the president has repeatedly spoken about his intent to add sympathetic voices to the court.
While several Democrats pushed Judge Barrett to commit to recusing herself in cases that concern the president, she repeatedly demurred, insisting only that she would consider any relevant factors that might cast doubt on her impartiality when making that decision.
Like many past nominees, Judge Barrett declined to speculate on how she might rule in hypothetical cases that may arise after her confirmation, including those involving the election. She used the same reasoning to rebuff questions about how she might rule on cases concerning the Affordable Care Act or abortion rights.
Given that any further questions about Judge Barrett’s participation in a hypothetical election case are likely to go unanswered, Democrats may be forced to take a different tack.
On Tuesday, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, framed a few questions in more concrete terms, such as asking Judge Barrett whether she believed the president should commit to a peaceful transition of power, something he has repeatedly declined to do. While Judge Barrett may argue that she is not in a position to weigh in on the president’s behavior or public statements, Democrats may look to push her to discuss actions Mr. Trump has taken that they see as falling outside of the law, or threatening constitutional norms.
During Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, asked Judge Barrett about her views on climate change. “You know, I’m certainly not a scientist,” she said, and added that “I have read things about climate change — I would not say I have firm views on it.”
Her language may have sounded familiar to anyone who has watched Republican lawmakers wrestle with their party’s longstanding disavowal of climate science: While party stalwarts used to simply deny that human activity is causing the planet to warm dangerously, they increasingly have taken the more neutral “I’m not a scientist” position.
“It’s a dodge that fails to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to warm,” said Ann Carlson, a faculty director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at U.C.L.A. School of Law, who said she found Judge Barrett’s statement “disturbing.”
She continued, “Judge Barrett is a smart, highly educated person who has spent most of her career in a job that rewards knowledge and intellect. For her not to have firm views on climate change is almost unbelievable.”
The evidence that the planet is warming, and that warming is having destructive effects, has only grown more pressing as more and more Americans have come to understand the links between extreme weather in their own lives — including more destructive hurricanes and wildfires. The issue is increasingly important to voters, and has become a prominent part of the presidential race; President Trump has continued to scoff at the evidence underlying climate change, even saying recently that “I don’t think science knows, actually,” while Joseph R. Biden Jr. promises an aggressive $2 trillion plan to counter global warming.
It is also important to the Supreme Court. In past decisions, the justices have accepted that human-caused climate change is occurring and determined that the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gases in the case Massachusetts v. E.P.A., but a more conservative Supreme Court might revisit the issue.
To Professor Carlson, Judge Barrett’s seemingly anodyne answer “seems like a pretty strong signal to those in the know that she is skeptical of regulating greenhouse gases.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, opened Wednesday’s hearing by proclaiming Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s coming confirmation a historic victory for conservative women who he said have faced steeper obstacles in public life than liberal women.
“This is the first time in American history that we’ve nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology, and she is going to the court,” Mr. Graham said.
Judge Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, has declined repeatedly during the hearings to answer how she would rule on a challenge to the Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights, but has made clear that she opposes abortion rights.
“This hearing, to me, is an opportunity to not punch through a glass ceiling, but a reinforced concrete barrier around conservative women,” Mr. Graham said as the second day of questioning by senators began. “You’re going to shatter that barrier.”
Mr. Graham, who is in a tough re-election campaign, echoed statements on Tuesday from the panel’s two Republican women, both of whom argued that conservative women had been marginalized for their beliefs.
“I have never been more proud of the nominee than I am of you,” he said. “This is history being made, folks.”