Who is Amy Coney Barrett?
Barrett delivered remarks following her nomination by President Trump to be Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. (The White House/Flickr)
Amy Coney Barrett was nominated by President Trump to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court on September 26, 2020. For the last week, despite partisan clashes and public outcry, the Senate proceeded in her confirmation hearings.
Barrett was confirmed to the Court of Appeals for 7th Circuit on Oct 31, 2017, also nominated by President Trump. She is 48-years-old; the youngest Supreme Court Justice was 44, so Barrett is on the younger side of the general age group for justices. Barrett, if approved, will also be the youngest currently serving justice, as the current justices are between 55 and 82-years-old.
Amy Coney Barrett in 2018. (Rachel Malehorn/Wikimedia Commons)
Barrett is married to fellow Notre Dame law graduate Jesse M. Barrett, and they have seven children together, two of which were adopted from Haiti. Barrett is a practicing Catholic and has been for her entire life. She studied law on a full ride scholarship and later taught law at Notre Dame. Barrett published work with Columbia, Cornell, Virginia, Texas, and Notre Dame. In 2010, she was appointed to serve on the Advisory Committee for Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. When nominated for 7th circuit, the Senate voted almost entirely along partisan lines. If confirmed, Barrett will be the most right-leaning justice on the Supreme Court. Barrett is a textualist and originalist, meaning that she adheres to the exact text written in the Constitution and interprets strictly, according to the original intent of the framers.
For more than 20 hours of the Senate hearing, Barrett declined to answer several important questions. Based on her past rulings and statements, it’s clear she is pro-life. Despite this, she declined to give her opinion during the hearing and simply answered that a judge’s job is to be impartial and not allow personal bias to interfere with upholding justice and the law. Barrett also remained tight-lipped on issues such as ObamaCare and climate change. This included not stating whether she believed climate change is a threat, as well as stating that she has no agenda against the ACA (Affordable Care Act), which contradicts President Trump’s statements on trying to nominate Supreme Court justices who are against the ACA and ObamaCare. Additionally, Barrett is known to have written articles stating that she opposes the two healthcare plans. She has continually claimed to have no agenda or plan and at the hearings, assured the Senate she had no intention to change the vote of the American people if the election goes to court. Barrett tried to stay neutral, which makes sense due to the proximity to the election. However, this makes it difficult for the Senate and the American people to discern what Barrett’s real views are.
In the past, Barrett has had all Republican and almost no Democratic votes. She is also a favorite among the evangelical-right and social conservatives, while opposed by many liberals. Since Republicans have the Senate majority, it’s unlikely that Democrats can block her confirmation. Furthermore, many swing-state Republicans supported Barrett, and Democrats don’t have the votes to stop the confirmation before Election Day. Many attendees at the hearings remarked on how easy and calm it was, especially in contrast to the Kavanaugh hearing in 2018. Many believe Barrett will be almost certainly confirmed.
One large controversy surrounding her nomination and potential confirmation is the nation’s proximity to Election Day ― November 3. This issue dates back to 2016, when the Senate blocked former President Obama’s candidate, Merrick Garland, for Supreme Court justice eight months before the election. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to even start proceedings until the new president was elected, claiming it was too close to the election. Now, McConnell has clearly stated that he plans to vote Barrett through, despite the fact that she was nominated only 4 months from Election Day. McConnell claims that during Obama’s term, the government was split, with a Republican Senate and Democratic president ― and now, since both are under Republican control, Barrett’s confirmation is justifiable. Democratic senators brought up McConnell’s past statements and encouraged him to treat both situations the same way ― block Barrett like he did Garland. He has refused, along with many other Republican senators, and continues to plan to vote for Barrett along with his fellow Republicans.
As we stand, there is little doubt that Barrett will be confirmed. The date for the vote is set on October 22, only a few days away. What does this mean for our country? Barrett would be replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was a liberal icon and activist. Barrett is a far-right conservative with a very different set of views from her predecessor. Her confirmation to the highest court in the nation has the potential to affect the lives of millions of people.
With President Trump, Barrett and her family walked to the White House Rose Garden for the president's announcement of his nomination. (The White House/Flickr)