Amy Coney Barrett’s inevitable SCOTUS appointment continues to divide Congress members.
By Riley Mulcahy
In an unprecedented move, Senate Republicans are rushing through the nomination of Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett. The hearings come as seventeen million individuals have already cast their ballots. Barrett is currently an Appellate Court Judge and law professor at Notre Dame University. Critics of Barrett worry that her being on the court will balance liberal/conservative judges tip over to the Conservatives. Issues and cases such as Roe v. Wade, Marriage Equality, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are at stake. The ACA is on the Supreme Court's docket on Nov. 10th, a week to the day after the United States election.
Senate Republicans made sure to let the Democrats know that there would be no questioning of Barrett's faith, a bone of contention for Democrats. However, Barrett argued that she viewed the Constitution "as a law. That I interpret its text as text. And I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn't change over time, and it isn't up to me to update or infuse my own policy views into it."
The Wall Street Journal points out Barrett's similarities to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barrett's predecessor. The publication notes that both were not afraid to share their personal views on Roe v. Wade (Ginsburg was famously pro-choice and Barrett pro-life). However, one main difference is that Barrett considers herself an originalist. Therefore, her pro-life views would not necessarily mean that she would vote to overturn Roe v.Wade; nonetheless, there is a possibility.
A particularly striking moment in the hearings was when Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) asked Barrett to "reflect a little bit on the glories of the First Amendment by naming the "five freedoms." In her response, Barrett struggled to come up with all of the freedoms. According to the Washington Post, Barrett answered "Speech, religion, press, assembly," counting them off with her right hand. She then claimed "I don't know. What am I missing?" When reminded that the fifth freedom is the freedom "to petition the Government for a redress (protest) of grievances."
When Sen. Sasse corrected, she admitted that "sometimes softballs do not turn out to be softballs." Then, Sen. Sasse asked Barrett why the five freedoms were grouped. Barrett could not answer the question and replied, "I'm sure there's a story that I don't know about why those appeared in the First Amendment all together rather than being split up in different amendments."
Sen. Sasse explained the reasons why they are grouped, "You don't really have freedom of religion if you don't also have freedom of assembly," he said. "You don't really have freedom of speech if you can't also publish your beliefs and advocate for them. You don't really have any of those freedoms if you can't protest at times and seek to redress grievances in times when the government oversteps and tries to curtail any of those freedoms."
Although she is a known conservative and her views are widely known, Barrett refused to answer any questions about issues such as Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act, referencing Justice Ginsburg's famous quote from her hearing, "hints, no previews, no forecasts." Democratic Senators responded to Barrett, arguing that millions are struggling through a pandemic and are worried about their health insurance being taken away.
Given the hearings' political nature, there is no leeway on how Democrats and Republicans will vote. In the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), "This is probably not about persuading each other unless something really dramatic happens. All Republicans will vote yes and all Democrats will vote no and that will be the way the breakout of the vote." The hearings showed what Americans had learned time and time again, everything in government, even issues that are supposed to be politicized, leads to distrust and disdain in politics.
Ryan Ford '23,