Trump nominates Barrett for SCOTUS, Michigan GOP Senate nominee says he backs process

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) introduces 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. With 38 days until the election, Trump tapped Barrett to be his third Supreme Court nominee in just four years and to replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump at the White House on Saturday introduced federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee, setting off a confirmation battle that could secure a conservative court for generations.

“She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect and sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Trump said in remarks in the Rose Garden with Barrett standing at his side. Barrett’s husband, Jesse, and seven children were in the audience for the event, and took the stage with her at the conclusion.

As the Advance previously reported, Trump had been considering Michigander Joan Larsen, a Court of Appeals judge. But news reports came out Friday night that Barrett was the pick.

Barrett would replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dying wish was to be replaced by the next president. Trump’s announcement comes eight days after her death on Sept. 18 at the age of 87 of complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer..

The president said Barrett “will decide cases based on the text of the Constitution as written.”

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Barrett, 48, who sits on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, is a favorite among conservatives for her anti-abortion views, and given her age could serve on the highest court in the land for decades—justices are appointed for life. Her confirmation would give conservatives six of the court’s nine seats, potentially shifting rulings considerably to the right.

“My fellow Americans, the president has nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and that institution belongs to all of us,” Barrett said to the crowd of about 150 in the Rose Garden. “If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle, and certainly not for my own sake.”

She said she looked forward to the confirmation process.

“I have no illusions that the road ahead of me will be easy, either for the short term or the long haul,” she said.

Senate Republicans are scrambling to schedule what’s expected to be mid-October nomination hearings before the Judiciary Committee for Barrett. Outraged Democrats have pointed out that would amount to unprecedented speed, with only 37 days from Saturday until the presidential election on Nov. 3.

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Both of Michigan’s U.S. senators, Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) both came out against Barrett’s nomination.

“A new Supreme Court Justice will make decisions that directly impact our daily lives and our way of life as Americans — including our health care,” Stabenow said. “This nominee’s record and writings make it clear that a vote for her is a vote to strip health care away from millions of Americans during the middle of a pandemic. The people of Michigan have the right to cast their votes and decide the future of their health care as well as the future of our country. I will honor their right as well as the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by opposing this nominee.”

Peters said that “Michiganders have already started voting and with Election Day 38 days away — they deserve to have a say in who nominates and confirms the next Supreme Court justice. As I have said before, I do not support the Senate moving forward on a Supreme Court nomination until after Inauguration Day. I will vote against confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a lifetime appointment on our nation’s highest court.”

Republican John James is challenging Peters in November. Up until Saturday evening, he was the only GOP Senate candidate who stayed silent on on whether the chamber should vote on Trump’s pick, according to a Detroit Free Press fact check.

James broke his silence Saturday, writing on Twitter, “Partisanship should take a backseat to the Constitution. Amy Coney Barrett is an accomplished and well-respected legal mind with an objectively brilliant career. I wish her a respectful and dignified hearing.”

A White House pool report said that North Carolina U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was among those present in the Rose Garden, as were fellow GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Hawley and Sasse also sit on the committee.

Trump said he expects the nomination process to be fairly quick.

“This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation,” he said, adding, “Should be easy.”

Trump after his remarks was scheduled to head to a rally outside Harrisburg, Pa., scheduled for later Saturday.

Four years ago, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to hold a confirmation hearing for President Barack Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, arguing that the seat should not be filled in an election year. That nomination came 237 days before the 2016 presidential election.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, criticized Trump for nominating a Supreme Court Justice before a next president is selected.

“The United States Constitution was designed to give the voters one chance to have their voice heard on who serves on the Court,” Biden said in a statement.”The Senate should not act on this vacancy until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress.

On average in recent decades it’s taken 43 days from the time of a president’s formal submission of a nominee to the Senate until the first public hearing, according to a Congressional Research Service report that looked at Supreme Court nominees from 1975 to 2018.

A second favorite nominee was Judge Barbara Lagoa of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, because of her Cuban American heritage and ties to Florida, a key battleground state between Trump and Democratic opponent former Vice President Joe Biden. The 11th Circuit has as its jurisdiction Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have already announced their objections to quickly filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ginsburg —-a liberal icon known as a champion of equality and women’s rights. They have called for the seat to be filled after the November election, although it’s not clear if Collins would be an automatic “no” vote against a Trump nominee.

Before Ginsburg died, she dictated to her granddaughter, Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Speaking of Ginsburg, Barrett said, “She was a woman of enormous talents and consequence, and her life of public service serves as an example to us all, particularly poignant to me was her long and deep friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, my mentor.”

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Senate Democrats have called for the court seat to remain vacant until Inauguration Day and have criticized McConnell for his rush while the U.S. is struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic. More than 200,000 Americans have died this year from COVID-19 and more than 7 million are infected.

Democrats and liberal advocates fear a more conservative court could overturn or chip away at historic cases such as Roe v. Wade, which gives women the choice to access abortions, or the Affordable Care Act, the health care law enacted during the Obama administration that’s been under attack for years by Republicans.

Biden noted that Barrett has a written track record of disagreeing with the landmark decision by the high court in 2012 upholding the health care law.

“President Trump has been trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act for four years. Republicans have been trying to end it for a decade,” Biden said.

Senate Democrats have objected strongly. “Leader McConnell has spent the last six months ignoring this pandemic and this economic crisis, and now he wants to pack the court—this is supposed to serve the American people and dispense fair justice—he wants to pack the court in a way that will put another corporate special interest judge on the court with another judge who always rules for corporations over workers,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said on the Senate floor Friday.

However, Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate, so even with defections by Collins and Murkowski, they still would have enough votes for a Supreme Court confirmation, which only requires a simple majority.

Trump has appointed judges at a breakneck speed. More are coming.

“With a unified Senate and White House, there is a clear historical precedent to move forward in this nomination process,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted Saturday. “The Senate has the constitutional role to advise and consent to judicial nominees.”

If Barrett is confirmed, she would be the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the youngest member, which is currently Justice Brett Kavanaugh at 55.

She would also be Trump’s third appointee to the high court, following Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Barrett grew up in a suburb of New Orleans and attended a Catholic high school there. She graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., in 1994 and summa cum laude from Notre Dame with a law degree in 1997.  She was a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and then with the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 1998 and 1999 before embarking on a career teaching law at Notre Dame.

Barrett shares Scalia’s originalist views that the Constitution should be interpreted by those who wrote and ratified it in 1787.

“The Constitution’s meaning is fixed until lawfully changed; thus, the court must stick with the original public meaning of the text even if it rules out the preference of a current majority,” she wrote in a 2017 law review.

In her speech shortly after the president formally nominated her, Barrett spoke about how influential Scalia was to her.

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“His judicial philosophy is mine, too,” she said of her former mentor. “A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policy makers and they must be resolute at setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

Scalia’s widow, Maureen, and his son, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, were in the audience for Trump’s announcement.

While working a faculty member at Notre Dame Law School, Barrett was a member of the Faculty for Life, an anti-abortion group.

Before she was appointed a circuit court judge, Barrett spoke about her views on the future of abortion in a 2016 talk at Jacksonville University. She said that while she doesn’t think the right to abortion legalized in Roe v. Wade would go away, states might place their own restrictions on late-term abortions.

“I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that would change,” she said during the talk.

During her time in the 7th Circuit, she considered an abortion case on an Indiana law that required fetal remains of an abortion or miscarriage to be buried, rather than allowing clinics to dispose of the remains.

The law, signed by former Gov. Mike Pence, who’s now vice president, also prevented abortions on the basis of race, sex or disabilities. The 7th Circuit panel found the law unconstitutional, but Barrett and three other conservative judges wrote a dissenting opinion that expressed skepticism that the law was unconstitutional.

Ariana Figueroa
Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance. Before joining States Newsroom, Ariana covered public health and chemical policy on Capitol Hill for E&E News. As a Florida native, she's worked for the Miami Herald and her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune and NPR. She is a graduate of the University of Florida.
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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.