Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s latest controversial nominee for the US supreme court, will tell senators in her high-stakes confirmation hearing this week that she will approach cases based on the law, not her personal views, as Democrats urged her to step aside on upcoming contentious cases.
Barrett, a fervent Catholic with a record of opposing abortion rights, will say that courts “should not try” to create policy, during Monday’s opening remarks, which were obtained by multiple media outlets on Sunday.
Barrett, a Trump-appointed judge now serving on the US seventh circuit court of appeals, will also say that she’s “done my utmost to reach the result required by the law, whatever my own preferences might be” in her present position. Senate Democrats are expected to grill Barrett on this.
Trump nominated Barrett to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September at the age of 87. If the Republican-controlled Senate confirms her, which is considered likely, it will create a 6-3 conservative majority in the country’s highest court.
Many conservatives hope such a majority will overturn Roe v Wade, a 1973 supreme court ruling that legalized abortion across the US.
The Senate has never confirmed a supreme court justice so close to a presidential election. Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to delay the confirmation proceedings, because of the close-looming election and coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 214,000 people in the US and infected more than 7.7 million.
Multiple attendees at the Rose Garden ceremony where Trump announced Barrett’s nomination two weeks ago have been diagnosed with Covid-19, including the president himself.
Republicans are rushing to confirm Barrett in advance of the 3 November election, in time to weigh a high-profile case that can undermine the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And if they confirm Barrett before the election, she would hear any challenges involving the election and voting.
Republicans are also working quickly because they might not be able to confirm her after the election. If Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency, and Democrats amass senate seats, Barrett’s nomination is likely to hit roadblocks.
In her remarks, Barrett will say that she has decided to uphold the same approach as her mentor, the late supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, whom she described as devoted to his family, “resolute in his beliefs, and fearless of criticism”. The mother-of-seven will also extensively discuss her family. She will say that she won’t let the law define her identity or overshadow other parts of her life.
She will remark that courts are “not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life”.
“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the People … the public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”
Barrett will also say that serving as a justice would be the “honor of a lifetime”.
“I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place,” Barrett is also going to say.
Barrett will tell senators about her approach to rulings, saying: “When I write an opinion resolving a case, I read every word from the perspective of the losing party. I ask myself how would I view the decision if one of my children was the party I was ruling against.”
Before Barrett served on the appeals court, she was law school professor at Notre Dame university in Indiana.
The confirmation hearings – which begin with Barrett’s opening statement Monday followed by questioning Tuesday and Wednesday – could turn into a bitter discussion of her faith. Republicans are hoping that if they can cast Democrats as attacking Barrett’s religious views, they could prompt enough political anger to save several close Senate races.
Senate judiciary committee chair, Lindsey Graham, recently said on Fox News that Democratic uproar over the credible sexual misconduct claims against Brett Kavanaugh bolstered Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.
“Kavanaugh really did help Republicans pick up Senate seats because they went too far,” Graham remarked.