In her calm and carefully controlled appearance, Amy Coney Barrett allowed herself only a touch of emotion.
It was just a clue, as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a flat cadence in the Midwest, wrapping her responses in the gauzy web of precedents and legal proceedings.
When Chairman Lindsey Graham asked about the impact of the nomination on her family, the judge said:
“We knew our lives would be searched for negative details. We knew our beliefs would be caricatured. We knew our family was going to be attacked. And so we had to decide whether these difficulties would be worthwhile, for what sane person would go through it if there was no benefit on the other side? “
BARRETT SAYS SHE KNOWED THE BELIEF WOULD BE CARICATURED THE FAMILY WOULD BE ATTACKED
And that was a given given the craziness of the court confirmations. Just ask Brett Kavanaugh. Barrett also had a touching moment when she described crying with her adopted Haitian daughter over the George Floyd video.
Of course, Democrats are outraged that the hearings are even taking place, given that Republicans did not hold one on Merrick Garland four years ago and are now breaching President Trump̵
Entering this greenhouse environment, Barrett revealed perhaps the most important tool for grilling a Witness: discipline. She repeatedly returned to her legal mantra: judges can’t just decide to repeal laws at will, they have to wait for cases to reach them, they have to respect precedents, they have to consult with employees and colleagues, and – that was you Mantra – I don’t have an agenda.
Perhaps the biggest news of the day is that Barrett refused to retire on a post-election challenge from the president who picked her (while saying she was not being used as a farmer). She also declined to reuse ObamaCare, the constitutionality of which the Trump administration is questioning in court. Her stance: there is a process of weighing the rejection in place and she will obey the rules. The judge, who wrote that John Roberts had gone too far in upholding ObamaCare, later insisted that she was “not on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”
Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat, spoke passionately about abortion rights but failed to get the Witness to commit to anything.
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During that exchange, when Senator called Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s testimony, Barrett quoted Obama-appointed Elena Kagan as saying she shouldn’t give a thumbs up or thumbs down on legal issues that could come to court.
The judge also tried to reject her branding as “female Scalia”, despite Antonin Scalia being her mentor when asked about his legal opinion that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. She said she would be her own person.
When asked by Democrat Dick Durbin if she is for life, Barrett said she signed a newspaper ad when she left church 14 years ago saying, “We are simply promoting the right to life from conception to natural death . ” She told Democrat Richard Blumenthal that she forgot to sign a 2013 newspaper advertisement criticizing Roe and “calling for the unborn child to be legally protected”.
The only answer that surprised me was Barrett’s refusal to recognize a simple fact: the Constitution doesn’t give a president the power to delay an election. It is not a question of interpretation. But maybe she felt that having to answer more questions about a possible election challenge was a slippery way.
Barrett tried to dispel questions about whether she could override her Catholic views in her jurisdiction by hitting a Graham softball court: “I can. I did that during my time on the 7th Circuit. “
Much of the initial survey of Republicans and Democrats was serious and substantive. But after the opening rounds, it was as if everyone had decided not to move the ball, and the Senators again made long speeches with Barrett sitting there as a prop.
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Republican Mike Lee persisted in the evils of the trial. Charts-top Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse delivered a stemwinder over a large right-wing conspiracy that allegedly selects, promotes, and benefits from conservative judges. Ted Cruz didn’t quite read “Green Eggs and Ham”, but kept going back to the Bill of Rights and asking such haunting questions as: What are your greatest talents? Do you speak a foreign language Do you play a musical instrument? “What advice would you give little girls?”
Indeed, Graham began the hearing by discussing ObamaCare’s shortcomings and his party’s determination to replace them. That was a tougher sale as the government didn’t offer a health plan and the chairman played defense after Democrats spent much of Monday describing the threat to the Affordable Care Act.
Look, these SCOTUS hearings have turned into an elaborate kabuki dance in which the candidates from both parties pose as impartial defenders of the legal ideals and then vote largely as their presidential benefactors intended. There are exceptions, particularly with John Roberts in some high profile cases, although its influence on a conservative 6-3 court is lessened.
Amy Coney Barrett did nothing yesterday to reduce her chances of becoming Trump’s third Supreme Court Justice. Her critics may see her as evasive and her followers appropriately cautious, but she follows a path long trodden by others who have been appointed to the Supreme Court.