Judge Amy Coney Barrett faced questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, the second day of her confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Barrett, nominated by President Donald Trump, on Monday delivered her opening statement to the 22-member committee, explaining her judicial philosophy and paying tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom she would replace if confirmed. The senators also read their opening statements, previewing the key points that each side is likely to put forward during their questioning.
This coverage has ended. Follow the latest on Day 3 of the hearings here.
Read the latest updates below:
- Barrett: 'I'm not hostile to the ACA'
- Barrett dodges question about whether she'd recuse herself from any 2020 election case
- Barrett declines to say whether Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided
- Barrett says George Floyd's death was 'personal,' but can't make broad statement about racism
Barrett dodges question about whether she'd recuse herself from any 2020 election case
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who questioned Barrett virtually because of his concerns about Covid-19 safety precautions, asked Barrett if she would recuse herself if a dispute with the 2020 presidential election comes before the court.
"I want to begin by making two very important points, and they have to do with the ACA, and with any election dispute that may or may not arise," she said. "I have had no conversation with the president or any of his staff on how I might rule in that case."
"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," she added. "I also think it would be a complete violation of the independence of the judiciary for anyone to put a justice on the court as a means of obtaining a particular result."
Barrett says she has not made any pre-commitments on any issue or case to anyone
Grassley asked if Barrett has made any promises or guarantees to anyone about how she might rule on a case or issue that would come before her on the Supreme Court.
"I want to be very, very clear about this, Senator Grassley," Barrett said. "The answer is no, and I submitted a questionnaire to this committee in which I said no, no one ever talked about any case with me, no one on the executive branch side of it."
Barrett said she has not made any pre-commitments to anyone and has not been asked to make any by the executive branch. She said she can't make any pre-commitments to Congress either because "it would be inconsistent with judicial independence."
Asked if it's her agenda or goal to repeal the Affordable Care Act if she's confirmed, Barrett said, "Absolutely not. I was never asked — if I had been, that would have been a short conversation."
Grassley: 'If people don't like what we do, they can vote us out of office'
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, spent the first half of his questioning round by criticizing Democrats' attacks against Barrett for what her confirmation would mean for the future of the Affordable Care Act.
"If people don't like what we do, they can vote us out of office," Grassley said, noting the difference between the roles of senators and judges.
Barrett refuses to express a view on LGBT rights, whether she agrees with Scalia's dissent
Feinstein asked Barrett is she agrees with the late Justice Antonin Scalia's view that the Constitution does not afford gay people the fundamental right to marry.
"Senator Feinstein, as I said to Senator Graham at the outset, if I were confirmed you would be getting Justice Barrett, not Justice Scalia," she said. "I'm not going to express a view on whether I agree or disagree with Justice Scalia for the same reasons that I've been giving."
Barrett said the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the way a nominee should comport herself at a hearing is "no hints, no previews, no forecasts." '
Pressed again by Feinstein to answer the question, Barrett said that she has "never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference" and considers discrimination, like racism, "abhorrent."
"On the questions of law, however, just because I'm a sitting judge, and because you can't answer questions without going through the judicial process, I can't give answers to those very specific questions," she said.
Barrett said she won't be 'legal pundit' when asked about Trump's suggestion to delay election
Feinstein asked Barrett if the Constitution gives the president the authority to unilaterally delay a general election under any circumstances.
"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," Barrett said.
"So, you know, if I give off-the cuff answers, then I would be basically a legal pundit," she said. "And I don't think we want judges to be legal pundits. I think we want judges to approach cases properly and with an open mind."
President Trump in July suggested that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed, claiming it could be ripe for fraud, although he cannot unilaterally change the date of the presidential election.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., later released a statement calling for Barrett to recuse herself from any case involving the election. "Her refusal to stand up to the president on this obvious legal question is alarming, and indicates that she is more interested in pleasing President Trump than she would be in stopping his illegal behavior," Schumer said.
Barrett says upcoming Obamacare lawsuit does not challenge pre-existing conditions coverage
Feinstein asked Barrett about the Affordable Care Act and the upcoming arguments that the Supreme Court is set to hear on Nov. 10.
Barrett said that the Obamacare lawsuit led by Texas is "not a challenge to pre-existing conditions coverage or to the lifetime maximum relief cap."
"For the court, it’s really a question of the law and going where the law leads, and leaving the policy decisions up to you," Barrett said.
What it's like inside the Senate hearing room
The GOP side of the room is full, with all members present. All are wearing masks except Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on the far end of the lower table.
Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn are wearing matching Texas flag masks.
Several Democratic members are absent - including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is the lone Democrat not wearing a mask. Barrett’s family, including her children, sit behind her on one side. On the other side is White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Barrett declines to say whether Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked Barrett if she agrees with the late Justice Antonin Scalia's view that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided in 1973.
Barrett said she would invoke the description given by Justice Elena Kagan in her confirmation hearing about grading a precedent to give it a thumbs up or down, saying she can't express a view on a precedent one way or another because it would "signal to litigants" how she might rule in a case.
Feinstein called her response "distressing" and pressed Barrett to answer the question again.
"Senator, I completely understand why you are asking the question. But again, I can't pre-commit or say, yes, I'm going in with some agenda, because I'm not, I don't have any agenda," Barrett said. "I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come."
Barrett talks precedent regarding abortion
Barrett says she owns a gun, but can rule on Second Amendment fairly
In response to a question from Graham, Barrett said that her family does own a gun, but that she would be able to set aside her views on gun ownership in ruling on the Second Amendment.
She made a similar comment about her Catholic faith, saying, "I can, I have done that in my time on the 7th Circuit. If I stay on the 7th Circuit, I'll continue to do that. If I'm confirmed to the Supreme Court, I will do that still."