- President Donald Trump on Saturday announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, an antiabortion conservative, to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
- Barrett’s addition to the court would shift the ideological balance of it sharply to the right, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority.
- Republican leadership, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has vowed to vet, hold hearings for, and confirm Trump’s nominee before Election Day, which is just 38 days away.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a deeply conservative opponent of abortion rights, to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Before an audience in the White House’s Rose Garden, Trump called Barrett “a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.”
Barrett, whom Trump appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2017, is widely viewed as an ideological heir to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who Barrett clerked for in the late 1990s.
Barrett confirmed that theory in a brief speech Saturday afternoon, saying Scalia’s “judicial philosophy is mine too.”
“A judge must apply the law as it is written. Judges are not policy makers,” she said. “They must set aside any political views they hold.”
In her remarks, Barrett also paid homage to Ginsburg, calling her “a woman of enormous talent and consequence.”
“Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings — she smashed them,” Barrett said.
The crowd also gave a standing ovation when Trump noted that if confirmed, Barrett would make history of her own, becoming the first mother of school-aged children to serve on the Supreme Court.
Conservatives are thrilled with Trump’s pick
If confirmed to the vacancy Ginsburg left behind, the 48-year-old judge would shift the ideological balance of the court sharply to the right, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority.
Conservatives praised Trump’s pick and promised to push forward with the nomination process. Barrett appeared on Trump’s 2018 list of prospective Supreme Court nominees, but Trump told associates he was “saving her for Ginsburg,” referring to his pick to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, according to Axios.
“This is a fantastic choice. We’re thrilled,” Mallory Quigley, a spokesperson for the antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List, told Business Insider. “It absolutely invigorates the pro-life grassroots and people for whom the Supreme Court is their No. 1 issue.”
The group announced its preference for Barrett earlier this week, and its president spoke with Trump about the judge.
Republican leadership, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has vowed to vet, hold hearings for, and confirm Trump’s nominee before Election Day, which is just 38 days away. The average Supreme Court nomination process takes about 70 days. Two Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have said they don’t support a vote on the nominee before Inauguration Day.
Republicans’ decision to vote on Trump’s nominee so soon before the election has infuriated Democrats, as it’s a reversal of the GOP’s 2016 position that Supreme Court nominees shouldn’t be considered in an election year. The GOP refused to even hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, who serves on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Democrats and progressive advocacy groups sharply condemned Trump’s pick. They expressed concern with the new court’s future decisions on healthcare, voting rights, reproductive rights, and worker rights.
“The stakes could not be higher,” Daniel Goldberg, the legal director of the left-leaning Alliance for Justice, told Business Insider of Barrett’s nomination battle. “Literally people’s lives are in jeopardy if she becomes a Supreme Court justice.”
Barrett would be the third antiabortion justice Trump has nominated to the court after Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. But she has the clearest judicial record of antiabortion positions of any of Trump’s picks.
Before her short stint as a judge, Barrett taught at her alma mater, Notre Dame Law School, where she was a member of the antiabortion faculty group, Faculty for Life. A devout Catholic, Barrett has been open about her belief that life begins at conception and has called abortion “always immoral.”
She’s suggested that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights, was wrongly decided and said it’s not a “superprecedent” that no court would consider overturning. She wrote in 2013 that “the Constitution does not expressly protect the right to privacy” and that the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade was made by “judicial fiat.”
As a judge, Barrett has heard two abortion-rights cases and voted to restrict access to the medical procedure in both cases.
Notably, Barrett’s views on abortion do not align with the majority of Americans’ opinions. A large majority — 61% — of 4,175 Americans in a 2019 Pew Research survey said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 70% said they didn’t want to see Roe v. Wade completely overturned. Support for abortion rights is the highest it’s been in two decades, according to Pew polling.
Barrett’s membership in a small religious group called People of Praise has sparked criticism from some Democrats
Another area of concern for progressives is Barrett’s record on healthcare. The judge has publicly disagreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2012 opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and its insurance mandate.
“Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute,” she wrote in a 2017 law-review article.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the Trump administration’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the ACA just one week after the election.
Repealing the ACA would strip millions of Americans of health insurance, even as millions of others have lost their coverage amid the pandemic and economic crisis. More than 130 million Americans would lose protections guaranteed under the ACA for their preexisting health conditions.
Barrett has also attracted scrutiny over her membership in a small religious group called People of Praise. The New York Times reported in 2018 that the largely Catholic group “teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.” Members swear an oath of loyalty to the group, The Times said.
During her 2017 appeals-court confirmation hearings, Democrats took issue with a scholarly article Barrett authored in 1988 in which she argued Catholic judges should recuse themselves from sentencing in death-penalty cases. Barrett distanced herself in 2017 from the article and said she couldn’t conceive of a situation in which her faith would require her to recuse herself from a case.
Quigley said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s questioning of Barrett’s religious beliefs during those hearings was widely interpreted as evidence of anti-Catholic bias and backfired on Democrats. In an infamous remark that drew headlines, Feinstein told Barrett, “The dogma lives loudly within you.”
“That really sparked a fire within the movement, and people have been following her ever since,” Quigley said, referring to Barrett.
Goldberg said senators should ask her “absolutely nothing” about her affiliation with the group or her religious beliefs. Instead, they should focus on her positions on key issues that will come before the court.
“Her private religious views are irrelevant and should not be an avenue of questioning,” Goldberg said. “We have Amy Coney Barrett’s views on the Affordable Care Act. We have her record on the bench of repeatedly siding with the wealthy and the powerful over the rights of everyday Americans. We know she will erode critical protections for millions of people. We’re confident that that will be the focus of the hearings.”
Political implications for Trump’s reelection
The impending nomination hearings have the potential to draw voters on both sides of the aisle to the polls and change the conversation in the last weeks leading up to the election.
Republicans say the Supreme Court debate will help Trump by distracting from the pandemic, economic crisis, and other politically problematic issues for the president.
“This takes other issues out of the headlines,” Bryan Lanza, a GOP strategist and former Trump campaign adviser, told Business Insider. “Supreme Court battles, which in the last decade have been epic if not historical by standards of human decency, get thrust in the middle of a campaign … This takes COVID out of the headlines.”
But the high-court debate has also boosted enthusiasm among Democratic voters. Barrett’s social conservatism, particularly her views on abortion, will undoubtedly invite backlash from progressives and women across the spectrum in the weeks leading up to the election.
In the days following Ginsburg’s death, 60% of Democrats in a Morning Consult/Politico poll said the Supreme Court was “very important” in deciding their vote in November — a 12-point jump compared with the previous week. Fifty-four percent of Republicans said the same, a 4% increase.
A majority of Americans in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Friday — 57% — said the winner of the presidential election should pick Ginsburg’s replacement. Just 38% said Trump and Republican senators should nominate and confirm a new justice before the election.
Over the past week, Democrats have raised nearly $200 million, an unprecedented flood of cash that’s helping boost both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Democratic congressional candidates across the country. Progressives hope this backlash will convince enough vulnerable Republican senators to change their mind.
“We’re hopeful that at least four Republican senators respond to their constituents and allow the next president, whomever is elected on November 3, to make this selection,” Goldberg said.
Michelle Mark contributed to this report.
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