Courts

Barrett’s Appointment to Supreme Court Breaks Norms and Generates Outrage

Yesterday, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed and sworn into the Supreme Court. Barrett was confirmed by a 52-48 vote with all Democratic senators voting no for the first time in 151 years.

This confirmation occurs in the context of an ongoing pandemic and an election that is now only one week away. In fact, more than 60 million Americans have already voted, thus reinforcing the controversy around the Senate pushing Barrett’s nomination through in the midst of an election.

Barrett will immediately start her work as a Supreme Court justice.  There are numerous election cases pending and potentially extremely important cases may occur regarding the presidential election.  Moreover, the Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will occur in early November in addition to cases involving Trump immigration policies, same-sex couples’ rights, and the census.

In the past, Barrett has criticized Chief Justice Roberts for upholding the Affordable Care Act, and once signed onto an ad condemning Roe v. Wade. These are issues involving access to health care are especially critically important now, during the coronavirus pandemic and have could have tragic outcomes for millions of people – some 125 million people with pre-existing conditions. The ACA requires all health insurance programs to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and some 23 million people are currently insured thanks to the ACA.

Barrett’s opinions on women’s rights issues are starkly contrasted with those of her predecessor, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who fought throughout her career to protect and expand gender equality and civil rights.

Senator Maria Cantwell gave a floor speech defending both abortion rights and survivor rights. She opened with, “Mr. President, I come to the floor to defend a woman’s right to choose. I am beyond frustrated that this debate is even happening tonight. According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are over 433,000 victims of rape and sexual assault on average each year in the United States of America. They have found that every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And so when someone wants to chip away at the rights of American women to have access to health care, my state is going to take it personally”.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez immediately called upon Democratic legislators to expand the Supreme Court, an idea that has gained traction as the court has become increasingly conservative.

“They stole another Supreme Court seat just eight days before the end of the election, after tens of millions of Americans had already cast their ballots, and just 15 days before the Supreme Court will hear a case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act,” wrote Senator Elizabeth Warren in an email to supporters on Monday night.

 Senator Chuck Schumer stated: “You may win this vote, and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court…But you will never, never get your credibility back.”

“The decision to rush the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation through to completion just eight days before a presidential election and while millions of people are voting reveals the gross hypocrisy of many GOP senators who denied even a hearing or vote for President Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland early 2016 on the grounds that the voters had a right to be heard.  Today they don’t want to listen to voters they simply want to stack the SCOTUS with right–wing justices.  It is an outrage and it has made the stakes of this presidential and U.S. senate election even higher,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Sources: CNN 10/27/20, Feminist Newswire 9/21/20, Senator Maria Cantwell 10/25/20, Feminist Newswire 9/28/20, The New York Times 10/22/20, CBS News 10/27/20