U.S. President Donald Trump announced the third Supreme Court pick during his presidency on Saturday, kicking off a bitter confirmation battle on Capitol Hill just weeks before the November election.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he’s nominating Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative federal appellate judge, to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a leading liberal voice on the Supreme Court. “She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Trump said of Barrett. “This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation.”
Barrett, who sits on the bench of Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, paid tribute to Ginsburg before acknowledging the challenges she might face ahead. “Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me,” the judge said.
“Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them.” “I have no illusions that the road ahead of me will be easy, either for the short term or the long haul…I assure you that I will meet the challenge with both humility and courage,” she said.
EDGING TOWARDS THE RIGHT
Trump successfully appointed two conservatives on the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, tilting the institution to the right with a 5-4 majority. Barrett, if confirmed by the Senate, would give the conservative wing a solid 6-3 advantage at the high court.
At age 48, she would also be the youngest member of the nine-justice bench and likely serve for the decades to come.
With 53 seats in the 100-member Senate, Republicans appear to have enough votes to approve Trump’s third Supreme Court pick and intend to hold a confirmation vote before the November election with an eye to energizing the conservative base. Only two Republican senators showed opposition to taking up a nominee prior to Election Day.
After the nomination ceremony for Barrett, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters that he believes Senate Republicans are going to “try to move through the process and review her credentials in an expeditious manner.” “If they do that, based on the resume that I’ve seen, hopefully she would get confirmed before the first of November,” Meadows said.
NOMINATION GREETED BY PUSHBACK
Democrats oppose moving forward with a vote on Ginsburg’s replacement so close to the election, citing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2016 decision to block then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because it was an election year.
McConnell has argued that this time is different because the Senate and the White House are held by the same party.
In a statement on Saturday, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he looks forward to meeting with Barrett next week, adding that the nomination will receive a vote on the Senate floor in the weeks ahead.
The Senate Judiciary Committee reportedly plans to start the official process to confirm Barrett on Oct. 12, which includes hearings, with a full chamber vote tentatively set for the week of Oct. 26.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he “will strongly oppose this nomination,” warning that the presence of Barrett, whose past critiques on Obamacare are under scrutiny, on the Supreme Court risks killing off the former president’s legacy, a mission Trump has long sought to accomplish.
“The American people should make no mistake – a vote by any Senator for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.
“By nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, President Trump has once again put Americans’ healthcare in the crosshairs.”
Two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Panel said they will not meet with Barrett. Such meetings are a tradition, during which senators can privately question a Supreme Court nominee before a formal hearing.
“I will oppose the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, as I would any nominee proposed as part of this illegitimate sham process, barely one month before an election as Americans are already casting their votes,” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said in a statement.
A CONSERVATIVE VETERAN
A Catholic and mother of seven, Barrett was nominated in 2017 by Trump for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which covers states of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and was later confirmed by the Republican-led Senate with a 55-43 bipartisan vote.
The jurist previously served on the faculty of the Notre Dame Law School, teaching on constitutional law, federal courts, and statutory interpretation.
Prior to that, she clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for the conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court, who died in 2016.
“I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said on Saturday.
“His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
In her 2006 commencement speech at Notre Dame Law School, she told graduating law students to think of their careers as a means to “building the kingdom of God,” a statement that sparked wide controversy over whether her religiosity would guide her legal views. Trump’s announcement on Saturday came a day after Ginsburg became the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
A renowned champion of women’s rights, Ginsburg died on Sept. 18 at the age of 87. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 as the second woman appointed to the high court.