Written By: Charlotte Mac Kay
On Sept. 26, President Donald Trump nominated conservative judge Amy Coney Barret to fill the empty US Supreme Court seat vacated by the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The nomination, and its proximity to the Nov. 3 presidential election, sparked a fierce political battle and has become a central aspect of the 2020 election.
The Senate Confirmation meeting, in which Barrett’s judicial merits are being discussed, spans from Monday, Oct. 12 to Thursday, Oct.18. If accepted to the Supreme Court, she will be Trump’s third nominee to be placed on the SCOTUS bench, following Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and the fifth woman to ever take a seat on the high court. Her nomination will shift the nine-member Supreme Court to a 6-3 Conservative majority, resulting in a potential long-lasting ideological shift since seats are lifetime appointments.
The 48 Barrett is a former law professor at Notre Dame who has been serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017 when she was nominated by Trump to the position. She is a self-declared originalist, and believes in interpreting the constitution as it was written. In her opening remarks, she connected her judicial policies to former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “His judicial philosophy was straightforward: A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were.”
She also paid respects to the deceased Ginsburg, saying “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.” As a Supreme Court nominee, Barrett said she is “honored and humbled” to be Trump’s choice and has vowed to judge legal cases impartially.
Senate and political leaders, however, have remained tense over the strongly partisan nomination. On Monday, the Republican Chairhead of the Senate Confirmation Meeting, said he expected a “contentious week” of discussions within the confirmation hearing. Across the aisle, Senator Amy Kloubachar (D-MN), who competed for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier in the year, called the nomination a “sham” and said that Americans “cannot divorce this nominee and her views from the election we are in.”
A particular point of contention surrounds Barrett’s opposition to the 2012 Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. When asked on Tuesday, Oct. 13 for her stances on the issues, she neglected to confirm or deny any intent to overrule key aspects of either. In the early days of the confirmation hearing, she has refrained from declaring a strong stance on any opinion, maintaining that she will be “unbiased” and follow the legal proceedings mandated in making decisions. Left-leaning politicians, however, worry that her historical stances on topics ranging from gun control to LGBQT+ rights will push the Supreme Court further to the right on key issues.
Democrats also accused the Republican party of hypocrisy surrounding the nomination, citing former President Obama’s attempted nomination for a SCOTUS seat in March 2016, when Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing due to the proximity of the 2016 presidential election. Many Senators are critical of the push to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 election, in which millions of Americans have already voted.
“Instead of passing a COVID relief package that will help millions of Americans who are unemployed, who have been infected, whose businesses or employers have closed, we’re focusing on jamming through Justice Barrett,” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) said in an interview, “I think this constitutes court-packing.”