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Amy Coney Barrett: Trump Supreme Court nominee faces questions

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Amy Coney Barrett

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image captionAmy Coney Barrett: “I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law”

US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has evaded questions about her views on key issues on day two of her Senate confirmation hearing.

The conservative judge repeatedly refused to be drawn on abortion, healthcare and LGBTQ rights.

She stated she had “no agenda” and vowed to stick to “the rule of law”.

Democrats opposed to her nomination view her as a threat to healthcare reforms passed under former President Barack Obama.

Republicans are seeking to approve her nomination ahead of the presidential election in three weeks.

Her confirmation would give the nine-member court a 6-3 conservative majority, altering the ideological balance of the court for potentially decades to come.

Democrats fear Judge Barrett’s successful nomination would favour Republicans in politically sensitive cases that reach the Supreme Court.

She is the proposed replacement for liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month aged 87.

Republicans have praised Judge Barrett. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsay Graham on Tuesday said she was “one of the greatest picks President Trump could make” for the court, while Senator Chuck Grassley said that her record showed she would approach each case in an “unbiased” way.

  • Who is Trump’s Supreme Court pick?

  • Amy Coney Barrett in her own words
  • What is Roe v Wade ruling on abortion?

Republicans hold a slim majority in the US Senate, the body that confirms Supreme Court judges, making Judge Barrett’s nomination very likely to pass.

Democrats have criticised the rushed process as “reckless” and a “sham”, amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed 215,000 people in the US.

They have also accused Republicans of hypocrisy. In March 2016, when Mr Obama, a Democrat, put forward a nominee to fill a spot on the court, the Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings, arguing the decision should not be made in an election year.

What’s happening at Tuesday’s hearing?

Tuesday is the first of two days of direct questioning for Judge Barrett from senators on the deeply divided Senate Judiciary Committee.

It follows day one on Monday, when she explained her legal philosophy and qualifications for the lifetime position on America’s top court.

Democratic senators are scrutinising her conservative views and decisions she has delivered as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Much of her record could be seen to be in opposition to the philosophy of the late Justice Ginsburg.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, started by asking about abortion. Questioning whether the nominee agreed with the view that Roe v Wade – the case that led to legalisation of abortion in the US – was “wrongly decided”, Judge Barrett vowed not to “pre-commit” to any view.

She similarly refused to express her views when questioned about cases concerning LGBTQ rights, arguing that it would be wrong as a sitting judge “to make my opinion about precedents”.

“I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law,” she said, stating that she had “no agenda to try to overrule” other decisions.

The judge is a devout Catholic but stated on Tuesday that she had “never tried to impose” her personal choices on others, in her personal life or her professional life.

media captionAmy Coney Barrett: ‘Courts not designed to solve every problem’

Healthcare is also high up the agenda, amid the possibility that she could be a deciding vote to strike down reforms enacted by former President Obama, providing health insurance to millions of Americans.

Senator Feinstein argued on Monday that “Americans stand to lose the benefits that the ACA [Affordable Care Act] provides” if Judge Barrett is on the top court, when it hears a case against the public health insurance scheme next month.

Asked for her opinions on the law on Tuesday, Judge Barrett refused again, arguing that as this case is soon to be heard by the court, “the canons of judicial conduct prohibit me from expressing a view”.

Judge Barrett has in the past criticised a 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding the ACA.

The hearings, lasting four days, are the key step before a full Senate vote on the nomination.

What did Judge Barrett say on Monday?

“I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our constitution and laws as they are written,” the 48-year-old jurist told senators.

Judge Barrett argued that elected politicians make “policy decisions and value judgments”, not Supreme Court justices.

“In every case, I have carefully considered the arguments presented by the parties, discussed the issues with my colleagues on the court, and done my utmost to reach the result required by the law, whatever my own preferences might be,” she said.

Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

  • favoured by social conservatives due to record on issues like abortion and gay marriage
  • a devout Catholic but says her faith does not influence her legal opinion
  • is an originalist, which means interpreting US Constitution as authors intended, not moving with the times
  • lives in Indiana, has seven children including two adopted from Haiti

What’s the confirmation process?

After the hearings end, any committee member can require an additional week before the formal panel vote on whether to present the nomination for confirmation before the full Senate. It is not clear if the members will be able to vote remotely.

If she passes the committee stage, the full Senate will vote to confirm or reject Judge Barrett’s nomination.

Republicans already appear to have the 51 votes needed to get Judge Barrett confirmed.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a confirmation vote before the presidential election.

Barring a surprise, Democrats seem to have few options to prevent her from gliding through the Senate to the Supreme Court bench.

Battle over Supreme Court

image copyrightGetty Images

Related Topics

  • US Supreme Court

  • United States



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