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The American Independent

Amy Coney Barrett refused to answer Senate questions 95 times

‘It’s not up to me to be in the business of expressing views.’

By Donna Provencher - October 15, 2020
Amy Coney Barrett

Over the three days of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Barrett refused to answer 95 questions posed to her by members of the committee.

In declining, she repeatedly referred to the words spoken by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her own confirmation hearing in 1993: “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.”

Here are just a few of the most noteworthy.

Was Roe v. Wade wrongly decided?

The Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein (CA), asked Barrett on the first day whether she agreed with the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion that Roe v. Wade, the landmark case establishing a constitutional right to abortion, was wrongly decided.

“I think on that question, I’m going to invoke Justice Kagan’s description, which I think is perfectly put,” Barrett said. “When she was in her confirmation hearing, she said that she was not going to grade precedent or give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.”

Barrett added, “It would actually be wrong and a violation of the canons for me to do that as a sitting judge.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI) also asked Barrett about Roe and received similar evasive responses.

Can a sitting president delay an election?

Feinstein asked Barrett another hot-button issue: “Does the Constitution give the president of the United States the authority to unilaterally delay a general election under any circumstances?”

In refusing to answer, Barrett said: “Well, Senator, if that question ever came before me, I would need to hear arguments from the litigants, and read briefs, and consult with my law clerks, and talk to my colleagues, and go through the opinion writing process.”

Does the Constitution give LGBTQ individuals the right to marry?

Feinstein and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) questioned Barrett about the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case establishing marriage equality as the law of the land.

In every single instance, Barrett refused to answer, telling Leahy: “I’m not going to, as Justice Kagan put it, give a thumbs up or thumbs down to any particular precedent,” Barrett said. “It’s precedent of the Supreme Court that gives same-sex couples the right to marry.”

Asked by Blumenthal about the constitutionality of Lawrence v. Texas, which held that the government cannot criminalize same-sex relationships, Barrett said she could not answer. That was also her response to Booker’s question on whether businesses could legally deny services to same-sex couples.

Will you overturn the Affordable Care Act?

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), referring to the Affordable Care Act as “essential to upholding the law” and protecting the health care of “a majority of Americans,” asked Barrett to weigh in on the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare.

“So just if you could, do you think the Chief Justice’s ruling upholding the ACA was implausible and unsound?” Coons asked.

Barrett said while she had expressed her opinions on the statutory interpretation, the question of constitutionality was not something she could opine on.

Barrett told several senators that she had no “hostility” or “animus” towards the ACA, and was unclear as to whether she was aware, when nominated, of Donald Trump’s statements that he intended to appoint a judge who would repeal Obamacare.

Barrett also declined to say whether she though Medicare was unconstitutional.

Do American citizens have the right to vote?

Questioned by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) as to whether a president could “unilaterally” deny the right to vote to any individual based on race or gender, Barrett had no response to offer.

“I really can’t say anything more than I’m not going to answer hypotheticals,” Barrett said.

She also refused to answer when Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked whether she agreed with Ginsburg that the Constitution empowers Congress to protect the right to vote, nor did she respond to questions about gerrymandering and voter intimidation.”I can’t express a view on that, as I’ve said, because it would be inconsistent with the judicial role,” Barrett answered.

Is contraception a constitutional right?

Coons pressed Barrett on whether she thought that Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized the use of contraception, was wrongly decided and that states should be able to make the use of contraceptives.

“As I’ve said a number of times, I can’t express a view, yes or no, A+ or F,” Barrett said. She did allow that she didn’t “think Griswold is in danger of going anywhere.”

Is separating children from their parents wrong?

Booker asked Barrett if she felt it was wrong to separate children from their parents to deter immigrants from entering the United States.

“That’s been a matter of policy debate,” Barrett said. “And obviously, that’s a matter of hot political debate in which I can’t express a view or be drawn into as a judge.”

But, Booker asked, does Barrett believe “as a human” that the practice is wrong?

“I think you’re trying to engage me on the administration’s border separation policies, and I can’t express a view on that,” Barrett said.

Is climate change real?

Asked by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) if she had “opinions” on climate change, Barrett hesitated.

“I’m certainly not a scientist,” she said. “I’ve read things about climate change. I would not say that I have firm opinions on it.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) later pushed Barrett further on the issue of climate change.

“Do you believe that climate change is happening and it’s threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?” asked Harris.

“I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is controversial,” Barrett said.

Harris thanked Barrett, saying the nominee had made her position quite clear.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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