WASHINGTON (CN) — Democrats drilling Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett buckled down Tuesday on their warnings that Republicans are commandeering the high court to overturn the landmark health care legislation that protects those with preexisting conditions, among them the 7 million Americans who contracted Covid-19 this year.
In lockstep, the Senate minority has defined Barrett as a President Donald Trump’s pick to overturn the Affordable Care Act by giving the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority in time for a hearing next month where the Justice Department backs conservative states fighting the ACA.
Barrett refused Tuesday to recuse herself from ruling on either the ACA or any election challenges that may arise.
“I have had no conversation with the president or any of his staff on how I might rule in that case,” she said. “It would be a gross violation of judicial independence for me to make any such commitment or for me to be asked about that case and how I would rule.”
Like Republican nominees before her, Barrett time and again invoked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, telling senators that she can provide “no hints, no previews, no forecasts” on a range of hot-button issues including abortion and gay rights as a prospective justice and sitting judge.
But Senator Kamala Harris called out Barrett for relying on the so-called Ginsburg rule, named for the liberal icon whose seat the Trump nominee is slated to fill.
The junior Democratic member on the committee, but a power player as the party’s vice presidential nominee, said Ginsburg in her 1993 confirmation hearing was “far more forthcoming,” specifically on the right to an abortion.
Harris teleconferenced in from the campaign trail, quoting Ginsburg as having said 27 years ago: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
Harris said: “I would suggest that we not pretend that we don’t know how this nominee views a woman’s right to choose and make her own health care decision."
Barrett insisted that she has no understanding with the Trump administration about how she would rule as a justice, but her assurances did little to sway Democrats.
“She may have made no deal, but the expectations are clear on his part and the appearance is irrefutable,” Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters in a midday recess, referring to the president.
When the health care case goes before the court on Nov. 10, the justices are set to focus on whether the individual mandate is severable from the rest of the Obama-era law. Barrett emphasized under oath Tuesday that this specific topic is not one she ever wrote about in scholarly articles.
The longtime professor did write about another aspect of the law before her 2017 appointment to the Seventh Circuit, saying Chief Justice John Roberts had pushed the ACA “beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
But Barrett declined Democrats' invitation on Tuesday to share her views on the health care law — “The canons of judicial conduct would prohibit me from expressing a view," she said, giving a variation of that reply to multiple questions on Tuesday.
Barret also declined to categorize Roe v. Wade as “super-precedent,” a term often applied to landmark Supreme Court decisions like Brown v. Board and Marbury v. Madison that the nominee said are “so well settled that no political actors and no people seriously push for their overruling.”