Moments after President Trump formally nominated her to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court on Saturday, Judge Amy Coney Barrett promised to “be mindful” of Ginsburg’s legacy while also employing the “judicial philosophy” of Justice Antonin Scalia.
“I will be mindful of who came before me. The flag is still flying at half-staff for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg...She was a woman of enormous talent and consequence...Particularly poignant to me was her long friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, my own mentor. They disagreed fiercely in print without rancor in person,” Barrett said.
“[Scalia’s] judicial philosophy is mine too. A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policy makers. They must be resolute in setting aside any personal policy news they might hold.” she said.
Barrett’s replacement of Ginsburg, a fierce liberal and tireless advocate for women’s rights, would mark a drastic ideological shift. Many of those opposed to Barrett’s nomination have said the legacy of Ginsburg she promised to be “mindful” of would almost certainly be undone if she is confirmed for the Supreme Court.
The nomination was immediately met with alarm by women’s rights groups. The International Women’s Health Coalition said Barrett “has worked to undo Justice Ginsburg’s legacy of advancing gender equality and justice” throughout her career and that she “prioritizes religious freedom at the expense of women, girls, LGBTQI people, and marginalized communities worldwide.” Her nomination “threatens the progress that was at the heart of Justice Ginsburg’s extraordinary career,” the organization said.
Nancy Northup, the CEO and president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, warned that Barrett will “gut Justice Ginsburg’s legacy and turn back five decades of advancement for reproductive rights.”
The nomination was also roundly criticized by Democratic leaders, who said Barrett's nomination threatens not only women's rights, but also the Affordable Care Act.
“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,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, adding that Barrett’s record “also makes clear that if she is confirmed, the reproductive freedoms that millions of women hold dear would be in grave danger.”
“Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish was that she not be replaced until a new president is installed. Republicans are poised to not only ignore her wishes, but to replace her with someone who could tear down everything that she built,” Schumer said.
Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, also warned about Barrett’s “written track record of disagreeing with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act” in a statement on Saturday calling on the Senate not to rush through her confirmation.
Trump, whose 2016 win came after he’d repeatedly promised to reshape the Supreme Court with more conservative judges, called nominating Barrett a “very proud moment.”
“I stand before you today to fulfill one of my highest duties under the United States Constitution: the nomination of a Supreme Court justice,” Trump said while announcing the nomination in the White House Rose Garden. “Today it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most gifted and brilliant legal minds. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution: Judge Amy Coney Barrett.”
The former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia remained the frontrunner throughout speculation over Trump’s pick. News leaked yesterday that Trump had decided on Barrett, and the Commander in Chief reportedly never interviewed another candidate.
Barrett’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for October 12, according to multiple reports. Barrett, 48, has served as a federal judge on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Indiana for roughly three years while also teaching at Notre Dame’s law school. She would be the fifth woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court and the youngest current member.
Should Barrett take Ginsburg’s seat, the ideological balance of the court will tilt farther to the right than it has in decades with six conservatives. Six of the nine justices would also be Catholic, and lawmakers have previously raised the question of what influence Barrett’s faith will have on her legal decisions.
During her 2017 appeals court confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said to her, “That dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” The remarks enflamed religious conservatives, who saw her as the victim of bias. Barrett was eventually confirmed 55-43.
Leonard Leo, co-chairman of The Federalist Society, which has influenced the selection of every Supreme Court nomination in the Trump era, praised Barrett’s selection.
“In nominating Amy Barrett to the Supreme Court, President Trump has again fulfilled his promise to appoint Justices who are not only exceptionally qualified, but willing to bravely stand up for the Constitution as it’s written and not bend to political pressures or personal preferences,” he said in a statement. “Judge Barrett will be a great role model for future generations seeking to ensure that the rule of law advances the dignity of all people.”
Should Barrett ascend to the court, advocates both for and against abortion forecast a relitigation of Roe v. Wade in years to come. Anti-abortion advocates have praised Barrett’s record. She has also made conservative decisions on hot-button issues like sexual assault on college campuses, guns, and immigration.
Barrett has described herself as an originalist who emphasizes the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution as literal. As Scalia did, she considers the document as it was written rather than as a living document that should change with the times.
“Amy Coney Barrett will decide cases based on the Constitution as written,” Trump said.
The vacancy on the nation’s highest court has ignited a bitter back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans over the propriety of filling a justice’s seat during an election year. In 2016, Senate Republicans refused to take up the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick for Scalia’s seat, Merrick Garland. They cited the proximity of the presidential election, which was more than six months away at the time.
When Ginsburg died September 18, though, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Judiciary Committee Head Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reversed their position and vowed within hours to nominate and confirm a justice by Election Day, less than two months away.
Democrats in the Senate, despite their vocal outrage, have few options to hold up the process. Former Vice President Joe Biden has blasted the decision and said the president elected in November should choose the next justice.