The 48-year-old appellate court judge declared her conservative views with often-colloquial language but refused many specifics. She declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases involving President Donald Trump, who nominated her to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and is pressing to have her confirmed before the Nov. 3 election.
“Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda — I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion — and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee during its second day of hearings.
“It’s not the law of Amy,” she said. “It’s the law of the American people.”
Barrett returned to a Capitol Hill mostly locked down with COVID-19 protocols, the mood quickly shifting to a more confrontational tone from opening day. She was grilled by Democrats strongly opposed to Trump’s nominee yet unable to stop her. Excited by the prospect of a conservative judge aligned with the late Antonin Scalia, Trump’s Republican allies are rushing ahead to install a 6-3 conservative court majority for years to come.
The president seemed pleased with her performance. “I think Amy’s doing incredibly well,” he said at the White House departing for a campaign rally.
Trump has said he wants a justice seated for any disputes arising from his heated election with Democrat Joe Biden, but Barrett testified she has not spoken to Trump or his team about election cases. Pressed by panel Democrats, she skipped past questions about ensuring the date of the election or preventing voter intimidation, both set in federal law, and the peaceful transfer of presidential power. She declined to commit to recusing herself from any post-election cases without first consulting the other justices.
“I can’t offer an opinion on recusal without short-circuiting that entire process,” she said.
Here are some of the highlights from the second day:
ROE V. WADE
Barrett in the first hour of questioning was posed with a pointed question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) about whether Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Her response:
“I can’t pre-commit or say yes I’m going in with some agenda, because I’m not. I don’t have any agenda. I have no agenda to try to overrule Casey.”
The questioning spoke to a shift to a more confrontational tone as Barrett, an appellate court judge with very little trial court experience, was grilled in 30-minute segments Tuesday by Democrats gravely opposed to Trump’s nominee. Republicans are rushing her to confirmation before Election Day.
ON AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
The ACA, also dubbed Obamacare, is scheduled to be argued once again before the Supreme Court a week after the Nov. 3 election. On Tuesday, Democrats reiterated questions to Barrett on whether she’d made agreements with anyone on ruling on the act if it came to a vote.
“Absolutely not,” she replied. “I was never asked, and if I had been that would have been a short conversation.”
She further specified that she was “not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”
She was also asked about whether federal law allows the president to delay an election, but she declined to answer that question. Feinstein also questioned the nominee about racism, with so many recent cases involving Black people and police looming. She also directly spoke to how the death of George Floyd affected her because she has Black children.
“As a person, I have general belief that racism is abhorrent," she told the senator.
She later added that she cried with her 17-year-old daughter, who hails from Haiti and is adopted, about the case.
“As you might imagine, given the fact I have two Black children, that was very, very personal for my family.”
“This should not be President Trump’s judge,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats say the winner of the presidential election should choose the nominee.
“This should be your judge,” she said.
Barrett presented her approach to the law as conservative and fair Monday at the start of the fast-tracked confirmation hearings. Democrats cast her as a threat to Americans’ health care coverage during the coronavirus pandemic.
With her husband and six of their seven children behind her in a hearing room off limits to the public and altered for COVID-19 risks, Barrett delivered views at odds with Ginsburg, the liberal icon whose seat Trump nominated her to fill, laying out a judicial philosophy she has likened to that of her conservative mentor, Scalia.
“Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,” declared the 48-year-old federal appeals court judge, removing the protective mask she wore most of the day to read from a prepared statement.
PROHIBITED FROM EXPRESSING VIEWS
Barrett repeatedly declined to give her personal views, or to preview how she might rule, on key issues that could become before the court. Like other Supreme Court nominees before her, she said she was prohibited from expressing those opinions by the “canons of judicial conduct.”
Among the issues she declined to weigh in on was the upcoming election. Barrett said she could not give an opinion whether she would recuse herself from any election-related litigation involving Trump, who said as he nominated her that he wanted the full nine justices in place ahead of any possible election decisions. Barrett also said she could not answer whether Trump has the power to delay the general election, an idea the president floated earlier this year.
Trump does not have the authority to unilaterally change the date of the election — Article II of the Constitution gives Congress that power.
HER CATHOLIC BELIEFS
Barrett acknowledged her strong Catholic faith while also saying she will put her beliefs aside when ruling if she’s confirmed. She said she has done that already in her current post as a federal appeals court judge.
In a series of questions from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Barrett said her faith means a lot to her personally and that she has chosen to raise her children in the church.
Republicans have sought to use Barrett’s faith to attack Democrats ahead of the presidential election. They point to Feinstein’s questioning of Barrett at her 2017 confirmation hearing, when the senator told the then-law professor that she believed “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Since Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court, Republicans have mounted an all-out defense of her Catholicism and repeatedly said they expect Democrats to attack it.
Democrats say they have no interest in revisiting that issue during this confirmation process. None of them have yet asked about her faith, and most Democratic members of the committee have said they believe it’s an inappropriate line of questioning.