Courts On the Hill Politics

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearings for SCOTUS Nominee Amy Coney Barrett

Yesterday, confirmation hearings began in the Senate for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Many of the speeches and declarations made were regarding the 2020 elections, particularly Trump’s backing of a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and the rushing of this hearing during a pandemic that has impacted many on Capitol Hill. The hearing is also occurring while many Americans are voting, as early voting began a few weeks ago, and that many members of the committee are up for reelection.

Judge Barrett’s opening remarks aimed to be uncontroversial, and focused on gratitude, her resume, and a vow to rule cases based on law, not personal preference. She stated, “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.” She thanked her family and mentors, and paid tribute to Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her former boss Antonin Scalia. When discussing RBG’s legacy, she said, “When I was 21 years old and just beginning my career,” Judge Barrett added, “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.”

While many liberal Senators focused questioning on the issue of healthcare, some conservative Senators emphasized the attacks on Barrett’s faith and juxtaposed this hearing with Justice Kavanaugh’s in 2018. Liberal senators specifically used personal stories to make their message clear and focus on “the real-life effects of a Justice Barrett’s decisions”.

Senator Kamala Harris made an urgent and specific plea to the Senate to postpone the Supreme Court confirmation until after the election. Harris attended the hearing virtually, and stated that “this hearing has brought together more than 50 people to sit inside of a closed-door room for hours, while our nation is facing a deadly airborne virus…This committee has ignored common sense requests to keep people safe, including not requiring testing for all members despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators of this very committee…The decision to hold this hearing now is reckless and places facility workers, janitorial staff and congressional aides, and Capitol Police at risk,” and “Not to mention, while tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills, the Senate should be prioritizing coronavirus relief and providing financial support to those families.” Senator Dianne Feinstein made a related plea, stating “We are now just 22 days from the election, Mr. Chairman. Voting is underway in 40 states.”

Today and tomorrow, senators will each get 30 minutes to question Judge Barrett, with the two political parties alternating turns, and then will get another 20 minutes for round two. There is a total of 22 senators on the panel.

Sources: Feminist Newswire 9/28/20, New York Times 10/12/20, Feminist Newswire 9/21/20, CNN 10/12/20, Harper’s Bazaar 10/13/20, Feminist Newswire 10/8/20

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