Bar­rett ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tion ad­vances

Se­nate com­mit­tee likely to ap­prove Thurs­day

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Richard Wolf

WASH­ING­TON – The prospect of a Supreme Court with a 6-3 con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity came one step closer to re­al­ity Thurs­day as the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee com­pleted Judge Amy Coney Bar­rett‘s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing and set a likely party-line vote by the panel for next Thurs­day.

Repub­li­cans brushed aside Democrats’ complaints about the process lead­ing to Bar­rett’s ex­pected con­fir­ma­tion in the midst of a pan­demic and a pres­i­den­tial race that the com­mit­tee chair­man ac­knowl­edged the GOP may lose.

“Y’all have a good chance of win­ning the White House,” Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., who is locked in a tough re­elec­tion race him­self, said as the panel de­feated Democrats’ ef­fort to de­lay ac­tion on Bar­rett un­til af­ter the elec­tion.

It was a stark ad­mis­sion from Gra­ham, who had said no seat should be filled on the court in 2020 af­ter Repub

li­cans’ re­fusal to act on Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of Judge Mer­rick Gar­land in 2016.

Gra­ham promptly aban­doned that pledge this year, and for good rea­son from con­ser­va­tives’ point of view. Armed with con­trol of the Se­nate, they pre­vented lib­er­als from get­ting a 5-4 edge on the court four years ago and stand at the precipice of a 6-3 ma­jor­ity, per­haps for decades to come.

“I have never met a more amaz­ing hu­man be­ing in my life,” Gra­ham said of Bar­rett, 48, of In­di­ana, a fed­eral ap­peals court judge, Notre Dame law pro­fes­sor and, as com­mit­tee mem­bers noted fre­quently, a mother of seven chil­dren, in­clud­ing two adopted from Haiti.

Sen. Pa­trick Leahy, D-Vt., called the process a “cal­lous, po­lit­i­cal power grab” and an ef­fort to get Bar­rett on the court in time to rule on any chal­lenges to the elec­tion process or re­sults, as well as a third Repub­li­can ef­fort to elim­i­nate the Af­ford­able Care Act. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, he said, “has made it im­pos­si­ble for Amer­i­cans not to ques­tion Judge Bar­rett’s im­par­tial­ity.”

Bar­rett did not appear Thurs­day af­ter two days of sharp ques­tion­ing, but two pan­els of out­side ex­perts weighed in. The Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, which Repub­li­cans have ac­cused of lean­ing left, ex­tolled her virtues and pro­nounced her well-qual­i­fied for the pro­mo­tion.

Four pro­po­nents and four op­po­nents of­fered con­flict­ing views.

Saikr­ishna Prakash, a Univer­sity of Vir­ginia law pro­fes­sor, called Bar­rett “uber-qual­i­fied,” adding, “To use a sports metaphor, she’s a five-tool ath­lete.”

De­fend­ers of the Af­ford­able Care Act, abor­tion rights and vot­ing rights warned that Bar­rett would push the court in the wrong di­rec­tion.

“I have put my faith in the Supreme Court, and with this nom­i­na­tion, I am los­ing faith,” said Crys­tal Good, a vic­tim of sex­ual abuse as a child who was able to get an abor­tion at age 16.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., an­nounced that the full Se­nate would take up Bar­rett’s nom­i­na­tion Oct. 23, the goal be­ing to con­firm her the week be­fore the elec­tion. She is likely to be con­firmed with 51 or 52 votes, one of the nar­row­est mar­gins in his­tory.

If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, Bar­rett would be on the bench be­fore the court next hears cases Nov. 2, one day be­fore Elec­tion Day. Two ma­jor cases are on tap in Novem­ber: the new Af­ford­able Care Act chal­lenge and a dis­pute over a Catholic so­cial ser­vice agency’s re­fusal to place fos­ter chil­dren with same-sex cou­ples.

As is often the case in con­tro­ver­sial

Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions, Bar­rett spent the past week por­trayed in starkly dif­fer­ent ways, de­pend­ing on who was talk­ing.

Repub­li­cans focused on her deep Catholic faith, anti-abor­tion be­liefs, pro­lific schol­arly work, ju­di­cial opin­ions and the vir­tu­ally unan­i­mous ac­co­lades she re­ceived from col­leagues, law clerks and stu­dents.

“On any mea­sure, Judge Bar­rett’s cre­den­tials are im­pec­ca­ble,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.

Democrats painted her as a far-right ide­o­logue who wants to over­rule Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court de­ci­sion in 1973 that le­gal­ized abor­tion na­tion­wide, and a threat to health care, LGBTQ rights and the right to vote. Af­ter a four­day hear­ing, they lamented that she had not an­swered most of their ques­tions.

“We re­ally don’t know what she thinks about any is­sues,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illi­nois, the Se­nate’s No. 2 Demo­crat.


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