A polarizing start to the U.S. Judiciary hearing on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 24, 2020, with mourners lining up to pay homage to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Credit: Laura Olson/States Newsroom capital bureau

Democrats and Republicans spoke passionately and provided far different views Monday morning as the U.S. Committee on the Judiciary launched its hearing on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I think this hearing is a sham,” said Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a former candidate for president in 2020.

In addition to criticizing the speed at which the hearing is moving, and with the November election drawing near, Klobuchar said that Barrett’s nomination could have a “profound impact” on everything from health care, who someone can marry and abortion rights.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, was concerned about alleged attacks against Barrett’s faith. “Judge Barrett is Catholic. We all know that. Sixty-five million Americans are Catholic,” Sasse said.

At issue could be that Barrett’s faith could affect her legal decision-making, particularly on the contentious issue of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and abortion rights.

Barrett’s confirmation, if approved, would shift U.S. Supreme Court toward a 6-3 majority on the bench.

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island about the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, could be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving millions of people without health care.

He also mentioned the quick pace of the hearings following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September.

Republicans quickly pushed to nominate Ginsburg’s successor and schedule the confirmation hearings, though, “Justice Ginsburg hadn’t even been buried.”

Republican State Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas attempted to move away from attacks pushed by the Democrats on the panel, when “very little” had been said about the nominee.

State Sen. Kamala Harris, of California — who is on Joe Biden’s presidential ticket — called the hearing Monday an “illegitimate process.” She added that the hearing is a clear attempt to jam through a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who would take health care from millions of people.

Also at stake, Harris said, are issues of equal justice under law, workers’ rights, consumer rights and legal abortion, among other issues that may or will come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, of Louisiana, talked about the contentious remarks between Democrats and Republicans during the hearing, saying that “This can turn sour real fast.” That was a reference to the Brett Kavanaugh hearing in 2018 over sexual misconduct allegations decades earlier. Kennedy called it a “freak show.”

Kavanaugh ultimately was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Professor Patricia O’Hara, a Professor Emerita of Law at Notre Dame Law School, described Barrett at the hearing as brilliant but humble — an exceptional teacher and a superb scholar.

Following the remarks of senators, Barrett spoke fairly briefly for the first time Monday afternoon. She talked about her husband of 21 years and her seven children, and her siblings attended the hearing.

She acknowledged that she did not seek a position on the U.S. Supreme Court and thought carefully about making a decision to be nominated.

Barrett made clear that she would faithfully and impartially discharge her duties as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, if confirmed.

“I believe in the power of prayer,” Barrett added, and she said many people have been praying for her.

In a press call Monday morning, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida defended Barrett for her religious views, saying “I think it’s disgusting Senate Democrats and the media are attacking Judge Barrett for her faith.”

“To attack somebody for their religion is wrong,” the Republican senator added. (Scott is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, nor is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.)

Scott said he is going to do everything he can to support Barrett’s confirmation.

“I look forward to voting for her. I think what will happen, she’ll get out of Judiciary next week and then we’ll vote on the last week of October, so she’ll be confirmed before the election,” Scott said.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.
Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.