WASHINGTON – Seizing an opportunity to consolidate conservative control of the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana to replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The nomination, overwhelmingly popular among conservatives, comes as Trump trails Democratic nominee Joe Biden in most polls and gives him a chance to change the national conversation from the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice and a troubled economy.
In a Rose Garden ceremony, Trump called Barrett “one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds.”
”She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” he said.
With Election Day 38 days away, Senate Republicans hope to move quickly to confirm Barrett, 48, to a lifetime appointment on the high court. Only two of the 53 Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, oppose voting before the election.
Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at age 87. Ginsburg is most noted for her lifelong fight for equality for women.
Democrats and liberal interest groups critical of her positions on abortion, health care and other issues appear powerless to block it.
Meanwhile, the White House has already set up meetings for Barrett on Capitol Hill, the traditional first step toward Senate confirmation.
If she ultimately wins confirmation, Barrett, a devout Catholic, would be the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court and Trump’s third nominee, joining Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The past three presidents, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, each appointed only two justices during their eight years in the White House.
Barrett is in many ways the ideological opposite of Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing who died eight days ago after a lengthy battle with cancer. Barrett was a small child when Ginsburg, as a lawyer, was winning a string of Supreme Court cases on behalf of women’s rights. Ginsburg went on to serve 40 years as a judge, including 27 on the Supreme Court.
Amy Coney Barrett: 5 things you need to know about the federal court judge
Trump and Senate Republican leaders want to confirm Barrett before the election – in part because of the contested nature of the election itself. Earlier this week, Trump said he wanted nine justices on the court to decide any legal cases that arise from the voting.
“We may end up in a dispute for a long time because that’s the way they want it,” Trump said Friday in reference to Democrats promoting mail-in voting. “But we’re going to end up winning.”
Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said in a short interview that Barrett will offer a “little more conservative backbone in the court,” adding with a laugh that her nomination to the high court has been “one of the worst kept secrets.”
Braun, who represents the state where Barrett lives, said he has one of the first one-on-one interviews scheduled with the nominee on Wednesday, adding that throughout the week senators are scheduled to meet with Trump’s pick.
He said hearings are likely to start in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel tasked with vetting Barrett, the week of Oct. 12 with Republicans hoping for a full Senate vote before the end of October.
“I’m guessing that unless there’s just some type of significant surprise or glitch that we’ll stay on track,” Braun added.
But first, the nomination of Barrett– who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, based in Chicago – will be a major campaign issue, coming just three days before the president’s first debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
“This nomination is an attack on our very democracy,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Republicans and conservative allies applauded Barrett as a strict constructionist who will interpret the Constitution and not make law from the bench.
“Judge Barrett has impressed the brightest judicial and legal minds with her profound understanding of the law,” tweeted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex.
Confirming Barrett by Election Day will require an extraordinarily fast schedule against an historic deadline. It customarily takes about 10 weeks to move from a Supreme Court nomination to Senate confirmation. And no justice has been confirmed later than July of an election year.
McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, plan to hold hearings on Barrett in October, with a final Senate vote by early November, right ahead of the election.
Democrats have decried that plan as hypocritical, pointing to what happened in the 2016 election year. Then, the Republican Senate blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee to the high court after Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, some nine months before Election Day.
If Trump and the Republicans push Barrett through, Democrats have vowed retaliation should they win control of the Senate in November. Their options range from ending filibuster rights – making it nearly impossible for a Republican minority to block legislation – to increasing the number of seats on the Supreme Court to restore ideological balance. They also could move to make Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico states, giving them opportunities to add Democrats to the Senate.
A former Scalia law clerk, Barrett checks most if not all conservative legal boxes. She is an originalist and a textualist, meaning she looks to the words of the Constitution and congressional statutes as written. At 48, she could serve on the court for four decades or more.
If confirmed by Election Day, she could be on the high court in time to hear several major cases this fall, including a third major challenge to the Affordable Care Act.
Trump considered nominating Barrett to the Supreme Court in 2018 after the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. The president instead went with Kavanaugh, who had a much longer tenure as an appeals court judge. Aides said then that the president was saving Barrett for a future high court opening.
Barrett’s confirmation would give Republican appointees a 6-3 advantage on the nation’s highest court, perhaps locking in conservative dominance for decades on issues such as abortion, civil and voting rights, health care, police powers, free speech and government regulations.
In the Supreme Court term that ended in July, Republican appointees held a 5-4 advantage, though Trump and others questioned just how conservative the court was under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts.
Trump has criticized Roberts for occasionally siding with liberal justices, including Ginsburg, to forge 5-4 majorities. Roberts has veered from conservative orthodoxy on abortion, immigration, LGBTQ rights and most notably on President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to nominate more conservative justices, and Barrett’s appointment is a fulfillment of that pledge. So, too, are the 53 federal appeals court judges he has named, flipping three circuit courts from having a majority of judges named by Democratic presidents to a majority of judges named by Republican presidents.
Mike Davis, former counsel to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who now lobbies for Trump’s judicial nominees, heralded Barrett’s nomination.
“With the appointment of a Justice Barrett as his third Supreme Court pick, President Trump will transform the 5-4 John Roberts court to the 6-3 Clarence Thomas court,” Davis said.
Born in New Orleans and now a resident of Indiana, Barrett has been a Notre Dame law professor since 2002 and a federal appeals court judge since 2017. She and her husband, Jesse, have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one who has Down syndrome.
While she was the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, Trump and aides said he considered at least four other candidates: federal appeals court judges Barbara Lagoa of Florida, Allison Jones Rushing of North Carolina and Joan Larsen of Michigan, and Kate Comerford Todd, a deputy White House counsel.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Justice makes history as the first woman, Jewish person to lie in state at Capitol
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/09/26/trump-set-battle-pick-amy-coney-barrett-supreme-court/3524999001/