The Senate Judiciary Committee has chosen Oct. 22 as the date to recommend Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court and send it to the full Senate for a vote, just days before the Nov. 3 election.
The decision comes after after two long days of Barrett’s testimony in which she stressed that she would be her own judge and sought to create distance between herself and past positions critical of abortion, the Affordable Care Act and other issues.
Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina pushed past Democratic objections and procedural moves to set the date vote on recommending Barrett’s confirmation even before final witnesses testify before and against her nomination.
In the minority, Democrats acknowledge there is little they can do stop them from locking a conservative majority on the court for years to come. The shift would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.
Facing almost 20 hours of questions from senators, the 48-year-old judge was careful not to take on the president who nominated her and sought to separate herself from writings on controversial subjects when she was an academic.
When it came to major issues that are likely to come before the court, including abortion and health care, Barrett repeatedly promised to keep an open mind and said neither Trump nor anyone else in the White House had tried to influence her views.
“No one has elicited from me any commitment in a case,” she said.
She said she is not on a “mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” though she has been critical of the two Supreme Court decisions that preserved key parts of the Obama-era health care law. She could be on the court when it hears the latest Republican-led challenge on Nov. 10.
Barrett is the most open opponent of abortion nominated to the Supreme Court in decades, and Democrats fear that her ascension could be a tipping point that threatens abortion rights.
There was no hiding her views in at least three letters and ads she signed over 15 years and her membership in Notre Dame’s Faculty for Life. So Republican senators embraced her stance, proudly stating that she was, in Graham’s words, an “unashamedly pro-life” conservative who is making history as a role model for other women.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said there “is nothing wrong with confirming a devout pro-life Christian.”
Barrett refused to say whether the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights was correctly decided, though she signed an open letter seven years ago that called the decision “infamous.”
What You Need to Know - Roe V. Wade
In an exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Barrett resisted the invitation to explicitly endorse or reject the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s comments about perpetuating “racial entitlement” in a key voting rights case.
“When I said that Justice Scalia’s philosophy is mine, too, I certainly didn’t mean to say that every sentence that came out of Justice Scalia’s mouth or every sentence that he wrote is one that I would agree with,” Barrett said.
She called the Voting Rights Act a “triumph in the civil rights movement,” without discussing the specifics of the earlier challenge to it. The court will hear another challenge to the law early next year.
One of the more dramatic moments came late Wednesday when Barrett told California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, that she wouldn’t say whether racial discrimination in voting still exists nor express a view on climate change.
Harris asked if she agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote in a 2013 voting rights case that “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that.”
Barrett said she would “not comment on what any justice said in an opinion.”
Asked whether “climate change is happening,” Barrett said she wouldn’t engage because it is “a very contentious matter of public debate.” Barrett did, however, say she believes the novel coronavirus is infectious and that smoking causes cancer.
Along with trying to undo the health care law, Trump has publicly stated he wants a justice seated for any disputes arising from the election, and particularly the surge of mail-in ballots expected during the pandemic as voters prefer to vote by mail.
Barrett testified she has not spoken to Trump or his team about election cases, and declined to commit to recusing herself from any post-election cases.
In 2000, the court’s decision in Bush v. Gore brought a Florida recount to a halt, effectively deciding the election in George W. Bush’s favor. Barrett was on Bush’s legal team in 2000, in a minor role.