WASHINGTON (AP) — Over and over, Amy Coney Barrett said she’d be her own judge if confirmed to the Supreme Court. But she was careful in two long days of Senate testimony not to take on the president who nominated her, and she sought to create distance between herself and past positions, writings on controversial subjects and even her late mentor.
Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court to take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems inevitable, as even some Senate Democrats acknowledged in Senate hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday. The shift would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court and would be the most pronounced ideological change in 30 years, from the liberal icon to the conservative appeals court judge.
The 48-year-old judge skipped past Democrats’ pressing questions about ensuring the date of next month’s election or preventing voter intimidation, both set in federal law, and the peaceful transfer of presidential power. She also refused to express her view on whether the president can pardon himself. “It’s not one that I can offer a view,” she said in response to a question Wednesday from Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont.
Democrats raised those questions because President Donald Trump has done so himself.
When it came to major issues that are likely to come before the court, including abortion and health care, she repeatedly promised to keep an open mind and said neither Trump nor anyone else in the White House had tried to influence her views.
“No one has elicited from me any commitment in a case,” she said.
Nominees typically resist offering any more information than they have to, especially when the president’s party controls the Senate, as it does now. But Barrett wouldn’t engage on topics that seemed easy to swat away, including that only Congress can change the date that the election takes place.
She said she is not on a “mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” though she has been critical of the two Supreme Court decisions that preserved key parts of the Obama-era health care law. She could be on the court when it hears the latest, Republican-led challenge on Nov. 10.
Barrett is the most open opponent of abortion nominated to the Supreme Court in decades, and Democrats fear that her ascension could be a tipping point that threatens abortion rights.
There was no hiding her views in at least three letters and ads she signed over 15 years and her membership in Notre Dame’s Faculty for Life. So Republican senators embraced her stance, proudly stating that she was, in Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham’s words, an “unashamedly pro-life” conservative who is making history as a role model for other women.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said there “is nothing wrong with confirming a devout pro-life Christian.”