In the last week of September and following the tragic passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US President Donald Trump announced his third nomination for Supreme Court judge to be Amy Coney Barrett– a move that seems to be coming to fruition.
Yesterday, Barrett gave an opening statement at the Judicial Confirmation Hearing, in front of Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee and other members of the Judicial Committee including ranking member Diane Feinstein. The event was held in the hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building.
Barrett’s husband and seven children sat behind her as she made her thirteen minute address.
“I chose to accept the nomination because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the place of the Supreme Court,” Barrett said. “In our nation, I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our constitution and laws as they are written and I believe I can serve my country by playing that role,” she pledged.
She began by thanking the Justices she’d been mentored by throughout the decades as well as her husband, Jesse M. Barrett, who also works in law. Barrett also gave special mention to each of her children and their talents and acknowledged her six siblings and parents.
“My parents modelled for me a life of service principle faith and love,” she remarked.
Barrett praised her “wonderful legal mentors” and the Judges to whom she clerked in the past, including Judge Laurence Silberman and Justice Anthony Scalia. She told those present that “A judge must apply the law as it is written not as she wishes it were.”
On the purpose of courts, she remarked that “Courts have a vital responsibility to the rule of law which is critical to a free society but 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 band accountable to the people the public should not expect courts to do so and courts should not try.”
She honoured the women on the Supreme Court bench who came before her, including Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I was nine years old when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit in this seat,” she said. “She was a model of grace and dignity throughout her distinguished tenure on the court. When I was 21-years old and just beginning my career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat in this seat. She told the committee what has become of me could only happen in America.”
“I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat but no one will ever take her place. I will be forever grateful for the path she marked and the life she led.”
However, Barrett’s nomination and opening speech was not met with widespread support. Several prominent figures including former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, noted their concerns with her possible appointment.
“Amy Coney Barrett shouldn’t be confirmed through an illegitimate, bad-faith process. Amy Coney Barrett shouldn’t be confirmed because of her extremist views. Amy Coney Barrett shouldn’t be confirmed—period.”
Doubling down, Warren declared on Twitter after Barrett’s speech that “Today’s proceedings again made it clear that Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination is the result of a desperate, right-wing party determined to hold onto power a little longer in order to impose its extreme agenda on the entire country.”
This sentiment was shared by abortion rights activists who congregated outside the Supreme Court dressed in red robes and white hats to mimic the women of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale in protest of Barrett’s Senate hearing and nomination.
A conservative judge, Barrett’s appointment would shift the balance on the Supreme Court to the right. Democrats fear Barrett’s ideological leanings will motivate her to vote against the Affordable Care Act and revoke abortion rights across America.
The Senate Judicial Committee will reconvene tomorrow for Barrett’s questioning, which will last for four days.
“This is going to be a long, contentious week,” Lindsey Graham said. He also stressed the importance of remembering that both Ginsburg and her ideological opposite, Justice Antonin Scalia, were confirmed almost unanimously.
“I don’t know what happened between then and now,” Graham began. “We can all take some blame but I just want to remind everybody there was a time in this country where someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg was seen by almost everybody as qualified for the position of being on the supreme court, understanding that she would have a different philosophy than many of the Republicans who voted for her.”