The Slatest

Cory Booker Finally States the Obvious at Barrett Hearing: “This Is Not Normal”

Cory Booker gestures while seated in a hearing room.
Sen. Cory Booker gives his opening statement during the first day of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in Washington on Monday. Pool/Getty Images

Everyone knows that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing is taking place at a strange time. There’s a global pandemic raging, which has personally affected several members of Congress and their staffs, and many across the country have already cast their ballots for the November presidential election. But during the first day of the Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday, many Democratic senators chose to focus their opening statements on the Affordable Care Act and the way the White House is hoping the confirmation of a new justice will help Republicans finally kill it. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey took a different tack. At first, his statement did focus on health care and seemed like it was going to be another standard speech from a Democratic senator, but then he took a turn and focused on one simple message and repeated it like a mantra with evident exasperation in his voice: “This is not normal.”

Instead of helping Americans who are struggling in the middle of a pandemic, “We are here,” Booker said. “We’re here!” he shouted, almost incredulously. “We’re here because in the middle of a deadly pandemic, in the middle of an ongoing election Senate Republicans have found a nominee in Judge Barrett who they know will do what they couldn’t do, subvert the will of the American people and overturn the ACA and overturn Roe v. Wade,” Booker said. “That’s what this is about. That’s why we’re here. It’s very simple.”

The New Jersey senator said Republicans are “desperately rushing” to confirm Barrett because they know Americans don’t want what they want. “Donald Trump and most of my Senate Republican colleagues know the truth: They won’t be able to get away with this after the American people have spoken in this election,” Booker said. Booker was the first senator to talk extensively about how Barrett’s confirmation could lead to a stark change in reproductive rights in the country. Without the protections of Roe v. Wade, people will be “denied the ability to be able to make decisions about their own bodies,” he said. And not just when they’re pregnant, they’ll also be “stripped of the right to plan for their futures.”

Beyond the specific objections though, Booker’s opening statement was notable for the way he was able to capture the frustration of many Democrats. “This is a charade when they say this is a normal Judiciary Committee hearing for a Supreme Court nomination,” Booker said. “There’s nothing about this that is normal … and we cannot normalize it.” And he ended with a simple five-word message that he repeated three times: “The American people should decide, the American people should decide, the American people should decide.”