Senate holds hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett

Screenshot from the hearing. Video provided by C-SPAN.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, after three days of hearings and a day for witness testimonies on the week of Oct. 12. 

The 12 Republican senators voted to proceed with the nomination, and the ten Democratic senators boycotted the vote.

Throughout the week of her hearings, Barrett faced questions on her stances on various issues, specifically healthcare, abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and climate change. 

Barrett’s potential rulings on cases involving these issues have been a point of discussion among the public, due to her strong religious past and her mentorship with Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia was known for his conservative beliefs and rulings. 

Barrett refused to answer many questions involving these subjects, declining to give her opinion or indicate how she would vote in certain cases. 

Barrett brought up the Ginsburg rule to justify her avoidance to answer certain questions. The Ginsburg rule came to be when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose seat Barrett would be filling, said that Supreme Court nominees questioned by the committee can offer “no forecasts, no hints” that would show how nominees would rule on a case. Barrett quoted Ginsburg’s remarks during the hearing.

On the topic of abortion, Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Barrett if she agreed with Scalia that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Barrett refused to answer, stating that she does not “have an agenda,” to overrule abortion cases such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, only having an agenda to “stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come.”

 However, she also declined to call Roe v. Wade a “super-precedent” case that should not be overturned.

For healthcare, specifically the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), Barrett stated that she was “not hostile to the ACA.” She emphasized that she had not promised anyone on how she would rule on Obamacare. 

Democrats in the committee mentioned concerns with her past criticisms of the ruling and decisions that upheld it. With her confirmation creating a 63 conservative majority in the Supreme Court, Democrats fear that Obamacare would also be overruled, leaving many without healthcare.

Barrett, on Obergefell v. Hodges, refused to say if she agreed with the ruling that made same-sex marriage a constitutional right. She said again that she has no agenda towards the issue of LGBTQ+ rights and has never discriminated on the basis of “sexual preference,” a term she was criticized for using. She apologized when Senator Mazie Hirono corrected the term.

Senator Kamala Harris asked Barrett on whether or not she believed climate change is occurring, after asking her if smoking causes cancer and if COVID-19 is infectious. Barrett declined to answer, on the grounds that climate change is “a matter of policy” that is “politically controversial.”

While her stance is unclear, her rulings on cases involving climate change could dismantle environmental agencies and allow the conservative-majority Supreme Court to revoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding of greenhouse gases.

Barrett, like Scalia, practices with the legal concept of originalism. Barrett was asked to explain originalism by Senator Lindsay Graham. 

Barrett responded by stating that she interprets the text of the Constitution as only text and prioritizes understanding its meaning at the time the Constitution was ratified. The meaning does not “change over time,” Barrett says, “it is not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views to it.” 

The final vote that needs to be cast to confirm Barrett by the Senate could take place on Oct. 26, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, if the Senate remains in session over the weekend. 

Despite push-back from Democrats, who believe the nomination and confirmation process should only occur after the election, the vote is also expected to pass. Republican senators outnumber Democrats, by 5347.

 

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