Inside Track: What to Look Out for as Barrett Nomination Reaches Senate

President Donald Trump adjusts the microphone as he introduces Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House on Sept. 26. After Trump and many other other attendees were diagnosed days later with Covid-19, the event was given the ignominious distinction as a coronavirus super-spreader. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Confirmation hearings for the judge nominated and all but certain to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, will kick off Monday. 

A former law clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, who like her was Catholic, Barrett graduated with honors from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. She taught there for over a decade before President Donald Trump made her a judge on the Seventh Circuit in 2017. Trump foreshadowed his plans for Barrett the next year, quoted as saying he was “saving” her to replace Ginsburg if he had the opportunity to nominate Ginsburg’s replacement. 

As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers the nomination this week, Barrett’s faith is expected to be a central focus. The 48-year-old mother of seven is also member of the conservative legal advocacy group the Federalist Society.

The hearings kick off after committee Democrats complained this week about missing information from a questionnaire Barrett completed as part of the nomination process. As first reported by the Guardian, Barret did not disclose that in 2006 she had signed an advertisement in which the anti-abortion group St. Joseph County Right to Life called for an end “to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade.” 

“The failure to disclose the 2006 letter leads to additional questions about other potentially missing materials,” Democrats told the Justice Department on Tuesday, questioning if any other materials had been withheld. “The omission also raises concerns that the process of collecting materials responsive to the [Senate Judiciary Questionnaire], like the nomination process itself, has been rushed, for no legitimate reason.”

Democrats have also balked at Barrett’s listing of only three cases under a section of the questionnaire that asked her to describe the “10 most significant litigated matters which you personally handled,” omitting her time spent defending a Pittsburgh steel company that aided the bankruptcy of a major Pennsylvania hospital system.

During 2017 Senate confirmation hearings, Democrats characterized Barrett as extremely conservative after studying her published works from 15 years in academia.

In a 2017 article “Countering the Majoritarian Difficulty” reacting to the Supreme Court’s backing of the federal health care law, Barrett wrote that the holdings NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell had distorted the Constitution. Chief Justice John Roberts had pushed the law “beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute,” she wrote.

Barrett also reflected that year about why Catholic judges shouldn’t be expected to recuse themselves from death-penalty cases. “Judges cannot — nor should they try to — align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge,” she wrote in the Marquette Law Review. “They should, however, conform their own behavior to the Church’s standard.”

Judiciary Committee members will begin their opening statements Monday, then question Barrett for the first time on Tuesday, according to a schedule released by Chairman Lindsey Graham. The following days will consist of testimony from “those who know Judge Barrett the best and legal experts,” according to the release.

Senate Democrats spent the week leading up to Monday’s hearing hosting conference calls that dug into Barrett’s judicial record. Conversations focused on varying issues, including workers’ rights issues, gun ownership issues and Roe v. Wade.

“As we debate Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the highest court in the land, it’s clear that women’s reproductive rights are in grave danger — including, potentially the right to start families with Assisted Reproductive technology like IVF,” Senator Tammy Duckwoth, an Illinois Democrat, said in a Tuesday call centered on Roe v. Wade. “So, I urge each of my Republican colleagues, many of whom stood up and cheered when I brought my little Mallie Pearl to the Senate floor, to look within themselves, think about the message it would send to families like mine if Judge Barrett were promoted to the highest court in the land and decided whether women like me should have the right to start families or whether we should be considered criminals.”

According to a New York Times and Siena College poll released shortly after Barrett’s nomination, the majority of American voters would rather stave off confirming another justice until ballots are counted on Election Day. The majority of poll participants also noted they supported abortion and the federal health care law, and that they felt Joe Biden would be more up to the task to pick a judge to replace Ginsburg.

Republicans stonewalled in 2016 when then-President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, months before Trump’s election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said 10 days after Scalia’s death that the nomination would be wielded as an “election cudgel,” and “plunge our nation into another bitter and unavoidable struggle.”

Though Graham has outlined one of the fastest nomination process for a justice in U.S. history with Barrett, in 2016 he insisted that the blackballing of Garland’s nomination was nonpartisan. 

“I want you to use my words against me,” Graham said. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make the nomination,’ and you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.”

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