Transcript: Senator Chris Coons on "Face the Nation," September 27, 2020

Coons says he'll press Barrett on Obamacare
Coons says he'll press Barrett on Obamacare 06:27

The following is a transcript of an interview with Delaware Senator Chris Coons that aired Sunday, September 27, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He's in Wilmington. Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Good morning, MARGARET, great to be on with you again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard Mark Meadows confidence and the timeline in the confirmation of Judge Barrett. You're laughing. It doesn't seem, though, that the Democrats can do much to stop it. Will Democrats do anything to slow it down? Will they boycott hearings? How serious are you about trying to throw sand in the gears?

SEN. COONS: MARGARET, what I was shaking my head about was having just heard Mark Meadows breathlessly trying to support President Trump's desperate efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of this election. We should not be barreling forward with this partisan nomination. There's only 37 days until the election. There is no precedent in American history for a president filling a vacancy this close to an election, where I'll remind you, more than half of the American states are already voting. We should be waiting until after the election. We should honor Justice Ginsburg's dying wish that the people should choose the next president, the next president choose her successor.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Eisenhower recess-appointed Brennan 22 days before the election, but I understand that was without Senate consent. So I hear your point. But the question was, are Democrats going to do anything to slow this down? Some of your colleagues are saying they won't even meet with the nominee. What will you ask or when you meet with her?

SEN. COONS: Well, I'm either going to meet with her in person or by phone, just another way this pandemic has upended the lives of millions of Americans. I'll press her on her previous statements about the Affordable Care Act. President Trump said he would only choose a nominee he was confident would overturn the Affordable Care Act. And as you know, MARGARET, that's on the Supreme Court's docket just one week after the election. It defies comprehension why President Trump would continue in his efforts to strip away from the American people pre-existing discrimination protection. There's more than 100 million Americans who have a pre-existing condition, seven million more because they've been infected in this pandemic. And I'll remind you, MARGARET, Justice Ginsburg's life's work was protecting us against gender discrimination. And before the ACA, insurance companies could and did discriminate against women just for being women by treating pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, charging women more for access to health insurance. It's amazing to me that Judge Barrett has publicly criticized the decision by Chief Justice Roberts that upheld the constitutionality of the ACA and that President Trump is making it clear a vote for Judge Barrett to be on the Supreme Court is a vote to repeal the ACA and take away health care protection from a majority of Americans during a pandemic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand that. Judge Barrett introduced herself to the American public as a mother of seven, as sort of a class mom, 

SEN. COONS: Yes.

MARGARET BREANNAN: --a very warm presentation in the public space. How do you fight that?

SEN. COONS: Well, we don't need to fight that, I can respect the fact that she has a beautiful family, that her clerks and students say she's a very talented professor and judge, that's not what's at issue here. What's at issue is both this rushed and partisan confirmation in which President Trump has told us he's choosing someone who will overturn Roe v. Wade, he's choosing someone who will overturn the ACA, and he's choosing someone who President Trump himself says he will need to put their thumb on the scale so that he can win the next election. He's not confident he'll win it fair and square at the ballot box. He says we have to rush through this nominee so that there's nine justices and one he handpicks to, according to President Trump, support him in his reelection effort.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he said he wo- he believes it'll go to the court and be decided. I understand your points. As you know, with individual cases, judges sometimes are hard to predict, even though you can kind of guess where they stand ideologically. But on the question for her confirmation hearing, Judge Barrett has been before your committee before because she- she was confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. And at the time, Senator Feinstein said to her, and, you know what I'm going to say to you, because it's gone viral, "the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is of concern." To many people that sounded like anti Catholic bigotry. You are a man of faith. How did that comment land with you?

SEN. COONS: Well, MARGARET, as you know, millions of Americans rely on our faith to guide us, to give us a framework in which we raise our children and live our lives, a community of meaning and of depth and religious faith should not be at issue here. There isn't a religious test for service in the government, whether it's in the Senate or on the Supreme Court. And if Judge Barrett is confirmed I know that justice--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should it- is that a legitimate question? Should that be raised as a factor?

SEN. COONS: What should be raised is her opinions, her speeches, her public statements as a professor and a judge, and whether or not she will uphold precedent, as you well know, MARGARET, Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, these are settled cases that for decades have allowed Americans to have confidence about the role of the state in terms of their private decisions about health care. And the Affordable Care Act is settled law. The Supreme Court has upheld it as being constitutional. That's on the docket a week after this election. That's on the ballot, and that's something Judge Barrett has spoken directly about. It is appropriate for us to question her statements, her opinions, her actions as a professor and judge, but not to go into questions of doctrine or faith personally. That's where I'll be focusing my questions on the Affordable Care Act and on what she has said publicly about her views on its constitutionality.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, first, presidential debate is this week. You support Joe Biden. What should we expect? Is this going to be the main argument?

SEN. COONS: You should expect that President Trump, who is a very successful reality TV star, is a master of spectacle. He will say whatever it takes in order to distract us from Joe Biden, who will again show us his heart, his compassion, his character. Joe Biden has laid out a clear and strong plan for how to get us out of this pandemic, for how to bring us back together, for how to revive our economy. Joe's going to focus on that, and Donald Trump's going to try and distract us however he can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you. We'll be back in a minute. Stay with us.