President Donald Trump announced Saturday he was nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to the Supreme Court.
“Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court,” Trump said. “She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution: Judge Amy Coney Barrett.”
Barrett was raised by a lawyer and a stay-at-home mother in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana, NPR reported.
Trump: “Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.” #ACB pic.twitter.com/CkZb6gyEet
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 26, 2020
She became a household name throughout her 23-year law career, first cementing herself as a litigator with a sharp eye for the anatomy of a legal argument during a clerkship under the late Justice Antonin Scalia between 1998 and 1999, according to SCOTUSblog.
When swing vote Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, the jurist was widely believed to be in consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court, having appeared on a long list of potential Trump nominees the year before.
Trump instead decided to pass her over, however, opting to go for a seasoned D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge in Brett Kavanaugh, who was incorrectly believed to be a safer bet.
“I’m saving her for Ginsburg,” Trump privately said of Barrett, according to Axios.
The widely accepted favorite for the court this time around, Barrett expressed grace in accepting the nomination Saturday.
“Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am deeply honored by the confidence that you have placed in me,” she said. “If the Senate does me the honor of confirming me, I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the best of my ability. I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution. I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court.”
Barrett’s nomination more formally opens the door for the Supreme Court to operate under a 6-3 conservative majority — and a strong one at that.
Only 48 years old at the time of this potential lifetime appointment, Barrett stands to greatly shift the balance of the nation’s highest court, having already proven herself a stalwart on abortion, due process, the Second Amendment and the legal philosophy of strict constitutional originalism.
“For the last three years, Judge Barrett has served with immense distinction on the federal bench,” Trump said, adding that she “will decide cases based on the text of the Constitution, as written. As Amy has said: ‘Being a judge takes courage. You are not there to decide cases as you may prefer. You are there to do your duty and to follow the law wherever it may take you. That is exactly what Judge Barrett will do on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The jurist has adamantly opposed notions the U.S. Constitution is a living document, expressing a firm belief in the original intent of the Founding Fathers as the highest value when assessing constitutionality.
“In some respects we should look at that [inflexibility] as a good thing,” she said during a 2018 lecture, according to The Observer, the student-run newspaper at Barrett’s alma mater of Notre Dame.
“It’s a floor, we don’t want to go below this,” Barrett added. “We don’t want an entirely flexible Constitution because then we would have no constitutional protection at all.”
According to NPR, however, this did not stop the left from raising questions regarding Barrett’s devout Catholic faith as she ascended to the federal judiciary.
The circuit court confirmation hearing held for Barrett in 2017 grew tense more than once as Senate Democrats broached the topic, with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois asking publicly whether the jurist was an “orthodox” Catholic and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California suggesting, without substantiation, that there was a capacity for Barrett’s rulings to be informed by religious “dogma.”
“Whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said. “I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you — and that’s of concern.”
“The dogma lives loudly within you.”
— Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Amy Coney Barrett, Sept. 6, 2017, nomination hearing for Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. pic.twitter.com/WpaWa8F809
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) September 21, 2020
Given the 53-47 Republican Senate majority, confirmation of Trump’s forthcoming nominee is well within reach — but it would seem no shortage of lobbying and horse trading will be required, as was the case with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh just two years ago.
A simple majority vote remains the standard for Senate confirmation in light of 2013 Democratic efforts to restrict the filibustering of most presidential nominees, as well as 2017 Republican efforts to extend the same standard to Supreme Court nominees.
Several center-right GOP senators have faced strong external pressure with regard to their votes on the matter.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine were quick to oppose efforts to fill the vacancy, with both indicating they would not vote to confirm any nominee forwarded by the Trump administration prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Murkowski, however, appeared to walk back her initial defection Tuesday, suggesting her opposition to nominating in an election year might not prevent her from supporting a sound jurist.
An early report also alleged Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah had decided against supporting the confirmation process until after Inauguration Day 2021, though his communications director, Liz Johnson, called the rumor “grossly false.”
Romney later put to rest any notion he would categorically oppose nominees forwarded before Election Day, saying in a Tuesday news release that he would “follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee.
“If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” he said.
The senator’s posture was matched by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — all of whom were initially deemed potential question marks as a result of their ongoing re-election efforts or previous remarks on election-year Supreme Court nominations.
Despite public political jockeying and uncertainty in light of Ginsburg’s passing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has remained confident his caucus will be able to process Trump’s nominee before the presidential election, NPR reported.
“The Senate has more than sufficient time to process the nomination. History and precedent make that perfectly clear,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.
“Perhaps more than any other single issue, the American people strengthened this Senate majority to keep confirming this president’s impressive judicial nominees who respect our Constitution and understand the proper role of a judge.”
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