The first delaying tactic the Senate Democrats should employ involves Paragraph 5(a) of Senate Rule XXVI, also known as “the two-hour rule.” The purpose of the rule is to help manage senators’ time, and it states that no committee hearings (excepting on the Committees on Appropriations and Budget) can be held after the Senate has been in session for two hours or past 2:00 pm without unanimous consent. The rule also provides that any unauthorized meeting of a committee cannot report out a bill or nomination.
There’s no way to avoid the rule, but the hearings on the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General in January 2017 show that it’s easy to work around it. In that case, controversy over Trump’s Muslim ban and the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates led the Democrats to invoke the two-hour rule. Then-Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa simply canceled the day’s hearing and rescheduled it for 10:30 am the next morning. Chairman Graham can do the same thing, holding morning hearings to remain in compliance with the rule, but that will push the fourth hearing to Friday the 16th, a mere 18 days before Election Day.
Assuming the Democrats force this one-day postponement, their next opportunity to delay will occur when the Barrett hearings commence on Tuesday the 13th. At that point, any one of their members can invoke the rules of procedure to request “the nomination on the agenda of the Committee…be held over until the next meeting of the Committee or for one week, whichever occurs later.” It won’t be surprising if the Democrats exercise this right, considering that every one of their members on the committee just sent Graham a letter requesting a delay.