Tensions high as Senate debates nomination of next Supreme Court Justice


(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump meet with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the President’s nominee for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, her husband Jesse and their children Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House.

Andrew Bourget, Website Editor

In mid-September, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at age 87. Questions around the nominee to be her replacement and the actions of members of Congress have stirred political controversy.

The nomination and confirmation process for Ginsburg’s replacement has caused political upheaval, especially due to the timing of the event in relation to the upcoming election.

Eight days after Ginsburg’s death, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Barrett is currently a circuit judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Trump’s nomination caused an outcry with many Democrats claiming this move was hypocritical, and even going so far as to question the objectivity of opinions that Barrett would bring to the court.

Democrats were quick to point out the fact that in March of 2016, just eight months before the 2016 presidential election, Senate Republicans refused to hear the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland and dozens of other federal court nominations by then-president Obama.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a 2016 statement about Garland’s nomination. “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Democrats now are claiming that it’s hypocritical of Republicans to rush to confirm Barrett when they refused to do the same for Obama’s nominees.

“They know there is no reason, no reason, no argument, no logic to justify flipping your position 180 degrees and calling it some kind of principle,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said to Politico.

McConnell argues that this is not a reversal or hypocritical, because he would still be following a precedent to not confirm judges when Congress and the presidency are controlled by different parties. This precedent, however, was not mentioned during the conversation in 2016.

Democrats have expressed worry over the added conservative judge and how that will affect rulings of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court will hear the case of Texas v California in mid-November and will rule on the constitutionality of the law, which puts the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans on the line.

In Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearings, Democrats made sure to bring up this point. 

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer went so far as to say that Barrett should recuse herself from the Texas case, should she be confirmed.

Democrats have also pointed out past statements that Barrett has made that have expressed an opinion on abortion and that it is hard for judges of faith to objectively rule on some cases.

In an article Barrett co-wrote with a colleague in 1998, she stated that abortion is “always immoral.” It also said that in reference to capital punishment cases, Catholic judges may find it hard to uphold the precedented constitutionality of the death penalty and may recuse themselves instead of ruling on the case.

In that same article, Barrett and co-author John Garvey wrote that Catholic judges are “obliged to adhere to their church’s teachings on moral matters.”

This raises questions about how objective Barrett would be on the court. Republicans and Democrats alike went over this topic in Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing, but have made the topic off the table this time around.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate.

Today, the full Senate will begin a 3-day discussion on Barrett’s nomination, with a vote currently scheduled for Monday, October 26. That vote is expected to fall along party lines, and Barrett is expected to be confirmed due to the Republican majority in the Senate.