As Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing kicks off, the Trump-nominated judge has vowed to leave politics out of the law. The hearing itself, however, promises to be a hyper-partisan battle.
The Senate Judiciary Committee meets on Monday to get the ball rolling on Coney Barrett’s nomination process. In her opening remarks, Coney Barrett promised to interpret the law “as written, not as the judge wishes it were,” in the style of her mentor, the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law,” she continued, “but courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people.”
Politics, however, are to the forefront of Coney Barrett’s nomination. Her selection would tilt the court’s balance to a six-three conservative majority, if Chief Justice John Roberts is considered a conservative rather than a swing vote. Her Catholic faith and refusal to completely rule out overturning Roe vs. Wade – the 1973 ruling that enshrined abortion as a constitutional right – have incensed Democrats, particularly as she would be replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal and lifetime supporter of abortion rights.
Despite the ideological differences, Democratic opposition to her nomination has centered around the fact that President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House may be cut short in less than three weeks. Party officials from top to bottom have demanded that Ginsburg’s seat be filled only after the upcoming election, so that “the American people have a right to have a say in who the Supreme Court nominee is,” in presidential candidate Joe Biden’s words.
The Republican Party has promised a speedy nomination. As the gavel came down and the hearing began on Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican members tweeted “Remember what they did to Brett Kavanaugh. We don’t owe the Democrats anything.”
Remember what they did to Brett Kavanaugh. We don’t owe the Democrats anything. #ConfirmACB
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) October 12, 2020
The GOP’s tweet referenced the allegations of sexual assault that marred Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination in late 2018. Despite the unsubstantiated rumors of Kavanaugh’s sexual improprieties brought up during his hearing, the Republican majority voted to confirm him that October.
This time around, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he already has the votes to confirm Coney Barrett, meaning that once the political spectacle of her hearing is dispensed with, a quick party lines vote will see her installed on the nation’s highest court before next month’s election.