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Published: 2020-10-13 06:33 am
The problems Barrett poses

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett being sworn in for Monday’s hearing.Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The opening day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing showed the very different problems that her nomination creates for each political party.

For Democrats, the problem is one of political power. So long as at least 50 of the 53 Republican senators favor her confirmation to the Supreme Court — and are healthy enough to show up and vote for it — Democrats can’t do much to stop them. Currently, at least 51 Republican senators appear to favor confirming her.

For Republicans, the problem is one of political popularity. Almost every major legal change that might reasonably result from Barrett’s confirmation appears to be unpopular with a majority of Americans. Consider the list:

Abortion. Barrett has said she favors overturning Roe v. Wade, and she might well provide the fifth vote on the court to do so. Public opinion on abortion is more complex than progressives sometimes suggest: 66 percent of women and 74 percent of men favor at least some restrictions, according to Gallup.

But the current law already allows some restrictions. And only about one in three Americans favors overturning Roe. Even fewer favor an outright ban on abortion, which the demise of Roe would permit. This explains why Vice President Mike Pence tried to duck this issue during last week’s debate.

Same-sex marriage. More than 60 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage, polls show. Barrett has signaled skepticism about it, which means she could provide a fifth vote to overturn the 2015 decision establishing a national right to it. Last week, two justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, suggested the court revisit that decision.

The climate. The rise of extreme weather linked to climate change seems to be worrying Americans. A recent Pew poll found that 65 percent want the federal government to do more to address climate change, and 80 percent favor tougher restrictions on power-plant emissions.

Barrett’s views on these issues are not clear. But if she is as conservative on them as she is on almost every other issue, she could become the swing vote that overturns a 5-to-4 decision from 2007 that gave the federal government the right to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

Health care. This was the issue that Democrats emphasized in yesterday’s hearing. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act by a 5-to-4 vote, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the majority. If Barrett replaces Ginsburg, she would become the swing vote on a case that could cause 21 million Americans to lose their health insurance.

Barrett has criticized the 2012 ruling. Polls show that most people want the law to remain in place.

No wonder, then, that Republican senators tried yesterday to talk about almost anything other than the potential impact of Barrett’s confirmation — be it her impressive résumé, her Catholic faith or her appealing family.

The country is in the middle of an election, and the Republican senators are well aware of the poll results I’ve explained here. The senators also know they have the votes to do what they want.

The 2020 Campaign

President Trump at a campaign rally in Sanford, Fla.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times
  • President Trump held a rally in Sanford, Fla., telling the crowd that he felt “powerful” since recovering from the coronavirus. Joe Biden sounded a populist message in Ohio, saying Trump “turned his back on you.”

  • Biden, when asked about expanding the Supreme Court, said that he was “not a fan” of the idea. “But I don’t want to get off on that whole issue,” he said.

  • The California Republican Party acknowledged placing containers deceptively marked as “official” mail-ballot drop-boxes in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange Counties. State election officials said such sites, which could be used to eliminate ballots, were illegal.

  • How quickly will votes be counted? Results should be available on election night in Florida and Arizona but may take longer in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Times has created a guide.

  • Daily polling diary: The main reason Biden leads Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin and other swing states appears to be persuasion, not expected turnout patterns: A modest but significant number of 2016 Trump voters are defecting, Nate Cohn writes.


Residents of Qingdao being tested for the coronavirus.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Chinese authorities will test all nine million residents of the city of Qingdao for the coronavirus, in response to an outbreak of nine cases. The move is typical of China’s aggressive — and successful — campaign to control the virus, after initially downplaying the dangers.

  • Johnson & Johnson has paused the late-stage clinical trial of its vaccine because of an “unexplained illness” in one of the volunteers.

  • What happens when the first vaccines are approved? Expect months of “chaos and confusion,” experts say, as the world learns which work best and how long their protections last.

  • The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, refused to answer reporters’ questions after they asked that he keep his mask on.

  • Several companies — including Google, Target, Microsoft, Ford Motor and The New York Times — have extended working from home through next summer.

other big stories

The agriculture sector has been hurt by President Trump’s trade war and the pandemic.Credit...Rose Marie Cromwell for The New York Times
  • The federal government has accelerated its farm subsidies ahead of Election Day. Government support will account for about 40 percent of total U.S. farm income this year.

  • Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook would ban content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust.” Two years ago, Zuckerberg cited Holocaust denial as an example of permissible free speech.

  • The billionaire investor Leon Black has claimed that he had a “limited relationship” with Jeffrey Epstein. In fact, Black regularly socialized with Epstein and wired him at least $50 million after Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl.

  • Protesters in Portland, Ore., demonstrating over the weekend against the treatment of Native Americans, toppled statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

  • The founders of a homeless shelter and a group that helps college applicants are among the first five winners of the David Prize, a new $200,000 award. As with the MacArthur Foundation’s well-known “genius” grants, the new prize comes with no conditions.

  • Joe Morgan, one of the best second basemen in Major League Baseball history, died at 77.

  • A Morning read: Environmentalists have long opposed the dam industry, calling it a threat to the health of rivers. Now, the two are trying to work together in an effort to fight climate change.

  • Lives Lived: At age 96, Roberta McCain campaigned spiritedly for her son, Senator John McCain of Arizona, in his losing bid for the presidency against Barack Obama. McCain once said his mother had inspired his will to survive as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. She died at 108.

Times journalists are reporting on this election from all angles. They’re examining candidates, uncovering hidden stories, explaining polls, showing how to vote during a pandemic and more. Our subscribers make this coverage possible. Please consider subscribing today.

Today begins Amazon’s much-hyped Prime Day (which actually stretches over two days). So we asked Nathan Burrow — from Wirecutter, our consumer website — for help in understanding it. His answer: Don’t be fooled. Prime Day is mostly a sea of overhyped discounts.

“Many products presented as being on sale during Prime Day aren’t well-discounted,” Nathan explained, “and others that offer excellent pricing won’t offer the product quality we’d hope to see.” Some are unreliable, like tantalizingly priced TVs. Others are on verge of obsolescence, like the Apple Watch Series 3 and some video-game consoles.

There are still some deals to be found — on headphones, pressure cookers, Kindles and other items Wirecutter has listed here. The site also has more guidance on what to avoid.

Credit...Julia Gartland for The New York Times

This vegetable paella with chorizo is a delicious weeknight meal that comes together in three basic steps: Sweat the aromatics, bake and cook on the stovetop until the rice is crunchy.

The popular South Korean boy band BTS is the latest in a line of celebrities and brands to face commercial repercussions after angering China’s government.

While accepting an award celebrating U.S.-Korean relations, the band’s leaderacknowledged the suffering of both Americans and Koreans during the Korean War. A Chinese state-run tabloid reported that the group’s members should have also recognized Chinese soldiers, who fought on the side of North Korea.

In a move that appeared to head off potential boycotts from Chinese consumers, Samsung, Hyundai and Fila distanced themselves from the band, removing collaborations with BTS from their Chinese platforms.

A Home Depot in Alhambra, Calif., last month.Credit...Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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