The US Senate Judiciary Committee continued confirmation hearings on Tuesday for President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Ginsburg, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the Judiciary Committee Chair, started the day with a line of questioning on Barrett’s judicial philosophy, textualism, which led to a civics lesson on how cases come before the Supreme Court. Barrett explained:
Judges cannot just wake up one day and say, I have an agenda, I like guns, I hate abortion, and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world. You have to wait for cases and controversies, which is the language of the Constitution, to wind their way through the process.
Graham questioned whether Barrett’s Catholic faith would affect her decisions on the Supreme Court, and she said that she would set her beliefs aside, as she did while serving as a Seventh Circuit judge. Senator Dianne Feinstein followed a similar line, asking whether Barrett believed Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Barrett dodged the question, saying “I cannot comment or say I’m going in with an agenda because I am not. … What I will commit to is that I will obey all the rules of stare decisis.”
Senator Patrick Leahy asked a series of questions designed to highlight the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). When asked directly if she would overturn the ACA, as the Republicans and Trump have called for, Barrett declined to answer. She reiterated that she has “had no conversations with the President or any of the staff” on how she might rule on the ACA or an election issue. She said it would be “a gross violation of judicial independence” to make a commitment on how she would rule.
Democratic Senators proceeded to focus their questioning on Barrett’s position on key issues such as reproductive rights and the ACA. On several occasions, the Democratic Senators brought up Trump’s comments regarding his judicial nomination process. Senator Corey Booker asked Barrett to respond to Trump’s statements that he would “only appoint a judge that would overturn the ACA.” The nominee reiterated her commitment to impartiality as a judge under Article III.
Republican Senators focused on Barrett’s qualifications and professionalism. Senator John Cornyn applauded her ability to answer the questions without notes. Senator Ben Sasse asked her why judges wear black robes. Senator Mike Crapo used his time to review her decision in mock arguments for a moot court at William and Mary School of Law. In the purely educational exercise, Barrett found certain provisions of the ACA to be severable.
The confirmation hearing continues for a third day on Wednesday.