Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said it's "awful" that Judge Amy Coney Barrett's religion is being attacked as rumors circulate that she's the front-runner to be President Donald Trump's nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
"I'm Catholic, OK. And religion should not enter into it. It sure doesn't with me," Manchin said in an interview on Fox News Wednesday. "The freedom of religion is one of the basic rights we all have as American citizens."
Judge Barrett, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, is widely seen as President Trump's likely pick to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. She has been the subject of recent articles raising critical questions about her Christian faith as she undergoes the vetting process for the Supreme Court.
Previously in 2017, during Senate confirmation hearings on Barrett's appointment to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) caused controversy by questioning her Catholic faith, saying, "the dogma lives loudly within you."
"It's awful to bring in religion," Manchin said in response to a question about the criticisms of Barrett's faith on "Fox & Friends."
The moderate Democrat also declared his opposition to voting on a SCOTUS nominee before the election and also opposed packing the courts in retaliation if Republicans advance a nominee to the court.
"We should be waiting, and if I use the words of all my colleagues, Republican colleagues with Merrick Garland, let the people decide. It's an election year, let them decide, but especially within 42 days to go," Manchin said.
He believes having a politicized confirmation fight in the Senate before an election will increase partisan divides.
"My goodness, everything is so political. Jurors should be picked on their qualifications, their experience level, and basically their findings. And you can say you agree or disagree because of the way they ruled on other cases," Manchin said.
He fears holding a vote on Trump's nominee before the election will be a partisan effort that will erode the Senate's character.
"There's no civility, there's no fairness to it, and we have to make sure we set some precedent to it," Manchin said. "The Senate is much different. The Senate was basically designed and intended to be bipartisan and every time we break away and keep pulling that cover off, there's not going to be any difference between us and that hot cup of tea that comes over from the House, as Washington said.
"We've gotta cool that off, and the Senate's gotta cool that off, and we're not doing a very good job of that," he said.
Manchin touted his record as the "most bipartisan person in the Senate," noting that he's voted for 161 of Trump's judicial nominations. Manchin was also the only Senate Democrat to vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Asked about threats made by Democrats against Republicans to pack the court after the election, Manchin suggested that would be another partisan effort akin to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) decision to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees and would backfire on Democrats.
"I do not believe that would help anybody," Manchin said. "Basically no one is working together. So if you have 11 or 13, it's going to flip the other way no matter who comes into power. So why would you go down that path? It didn't work in 2015 with the nuclear option, and I would have doubts it would work this time."
"We've got to fight for basically who we are as the Senate," he said. "Can we represent the people in a bipartisan way, Democrats and Republicans?"