Barrett judicial nomination advances
Senate committee likely to approve Thursday
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.