Posted on Monday October 12th, 2020 at 8:40 pm by James Romoser
Judge Amy Coney Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday afternoon that "Courts are not designed to solve every problem or correct every injustice" after the Senators, after a day of polarized back and forth over the preeminent role of the The Supreme Court had argued over health care, abortion, suffrage and electoral politics.
Barrett sat in a mask in silence for most of the day while all 22 members of the committee took turns delivering 10-minute opening speeches. It was the first of four days of scheduled hearings examining President Donald Trump's appointment to the Supreme Court.
Democrats sought to portray Barrett as an automatic vote to crush Affordable Care Act and override landmark decisions protecting same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Republicans described her as a devoted textualist and originalist who did not allow her personal views to influence her judicial decisions.
It was only at the end of the full-day hearing that Barrett had an opportunity to speak. She made a brief opening address discussing her background and family, and paying tribute to three former judges: Sandra Day O'Connor, the first women to serve at court; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18 and whose seat Barrett is nominated for the occupation; and Antonin Scalia, whose legal philosophy Barrett has described as her role model.
Your opening speech avoided legal substance. She promised that if approved, she would help "ensure an independent Supreme Court that will interpret our Constitution and laws as they are written."
A hearing from the COVID era
Although Barrett's opening address resembled the similarly vague testimony of almost all modern Supreme Court candidates, Monday's hearing was unlike any other that preceded it.
Special procedures – including strict restrictions on guests and press – have been put in place to address the need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Some senators attended the hearing via videoconference, including Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Who announced on October 2 that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, also announced on Oct.2 that he tested positive for the virus, but Lee attended in person after saying his doctor had approved him for participation.
Democrats have called for the hearing to be postponed amid the recent outbreak of senior Republican officials in Washington – an outbreak some believe stems from the Sept. 26 White House ceremony where Trump announced Barrett's nomination. Justice Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) Said the hearing was in line with the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He resisted calls for mandatory tests for committee members.
Competing partisan narratives
Barrett will spend the next two days answering extensive questions from members of the Judiciary Committee who will no doubt seek to clarify their views on certain legal issues. Monday's hearing previewed the issues to be highlighted on each side of the aisle.
Each Democrat spoke at length about California v Texas, the ACA's constitutional challenge to be debated in the Supreme Court on November 10th. As evidence of Barrett's hostility to the Health Bill, several Democrats cited a 2017 article criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion in NFIB against Sebelius, which upheld the bill against a previous constitutional challenge. In this case, Barrett wrote, "Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the law."
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) Said his constituents want him to "say no to this candidate, largely because they see her as a judicial torpedo aimed at her essential protection".
Democrats also said Barrett's confirmation could lead the court to the Roe v. Wade announced constitutional right to abortion and that in Obergefell v. Hodges' announced repeal of the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. A Democrat – Senator Chris Coons of Delaware – said Barrett's confirmation would jeopardize Griswold versus Connecticut, which protects the right of access to contraception. Another Democrat – Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal – described Barrett's views on the second amendment as radically pro-gun. Many Democrats also accused Republicans of hypocrisy for attempting to confirm Barrett in the month leading up to the 2020 presidential election – four years after Republicans refused to allow President Barack Obama to serve on the Supreme Court during an election year.
Republicans defended the decision to occupy Ginsburg's seat, saying that many Supreme Court vacancies had been filled in the election years of American history. And while the Democrats unanimously invoked health care, the Republicans offered a different refrain: They repeatedly accused the Democrats of wanting to turn the Supreme Court into a political institution and tried to stave off any criticism based on Barrett's Catholic faith.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Said that by focusing on health care protection in the ACA and other political issues, the Democrats "acted as a super-legislature, as a political body, as an organ that Doing so will decree results to the American people. "At least two Republican senators similarly accused the Democrats of wanting to turn the court into a 'super-legislature', saying Barrett was a neutral lawyer, not a lawmaker or attorney.
The Republicans also spoke at length on the basic principle of religious freedom and suggested that any investigation into Barrett's Catholicism be prohibited. During Barrett's 2017 confirmatory hearing for a seat in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, some Democrats questioned Barrett about their religion in ways that suggested they doubted their ability to be impartial. Barrett's followers have characterized these questions as examples of anti-Catholic prejudice. Democrats did not discuss Barrett's religion in their opening speeches on Monday.
Barrett Hearings, Day One: Opening Address on Healthcare, Religion and the Role of the Supreme Court,
SCOTUSblog (October 12, 2020, 8:40 p.m.),