Amy Coney Barrett wouldn’t tell America where she stands on vital issues, so GOP senators did it for her

Barrett
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the second day of her confirmation hearings.
  • Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett repeatedly avoided answering questions during her confirmation hearings this week. 
  • Barrett leaned on the "Ginsburg rule" in justifying her refusal to address an array of topics, though it's a rule that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't actually follow. 
  • Where Barrett didn't answer, Republicans often stepped in and made her position on hot-button topics like abortion abundantly clear.
  • "This is the first time in American history that we've nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life," GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday.
  • Republicans were set on confirming Barrett before the hearings even started, placing her in a perfect position to evade questions.
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Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett repeatedly evaded questions during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

But where Barrett refused to answer, Republican senators often stepped in and did it for her. 

Barrett invoked the "Ginsburg rule" in justifying why she would not touch on an array of topics, including abortion and the electoral process. 

"Justice Ginsburg with her characteristic pithiness used this to describe how a nominee should comport herself at a hearing: no hints, no previews, no forecasts. That had been the practice of nominees before her. But everybody calls it the 'Ginsburg rule' because she stated it so concisely," Barrett said.

The reality, however, is that Ginsburg specifically addressed many topics, including Roe v. Wade, during her confirmation hearings 27 years ago.

When Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday asked Barrett whether she agreed with her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, that the landmark case legalizing abortion was wrongly decided, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee said: "I can't express views on cases or pre-commit."

Though Barrett, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, would not tell the country under oath where she stands on abortion, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham was happy to.

"This is the first time in American history that we've nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology, and she is going to the court," Graham said during Wednesday's hearing. 

Barrett, who is Catholic, has given talks to antiabortion groups and also signed her name to a newspaper ad in 2006 that decried the "barbaric legacy" of Roe v. Wade.

Her record on this topic appears to have been a large part of the reason she was nominated in the first place. GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in July said he would not vote for a Supreme Court nominee who doesn't believe Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Before the start of Barrett's confirmation hearings, Hawley signaled that the judge had passed that litmus test and he would vote to confirm her.

"There's plenty of evidence, I think, to demonstrate that she understands that Roe is — in my words — an act of judicial imperialism," Hawley said last week, according to The Washington Post. "And I feel very comfortable with her on that issue."

Barrett didn't need to say that she believes Roe was wrongly decided during her confirmation hearings because she'd convinced the people whose votes she needed even before sitting down for questioning.

Similarly, Barrett was critical of the Affordable Care Act — also known as "Obamacare" — in writings before the confirmation hearings. But she remained evasive in the face of repeated questions on the matter from Democrats. The Supreme Court is set to hear a case on the landmark healthcare law a week after the election.

Republicans, who have consistently sought to dismantle Obamacare, lashed out at Democrats for pressing Barrett so hard on where she stands on the law.

"This hearing has been more about Obamacare than about you," Graham, who spent a significant portion of at least one of the hearings bashing Obamacare, told Barrett on Wednesday.

In many ways, what Barrett didn't say during the hearings was more telling than what she did. 

Barrett refused to say whether systemic racism exists in the US or if Trump could legally delay the November 3 election. She also faced backlash for referring to LGBTQ people's sexual orientations as "preference." Barrett also declined to offer clear answers on whether she agreed with precedents set by the high court in terms of decisions that legalized birth control and same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court nominee would not answer questions on even the most basic matters, such as whether all presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Trump has refused to offer a commitment on the matter, and Barrett said, "To the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it, and I don't want to express a view."

Barrett would also not discuss climate change, calling it a "very contentious matter of public debate." But there is overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming, and the vast majority of scientists agree this is directly linked to human activities. In short, climate change is not a debatable issue, it's an unfortunate reality. 

But again, where Barrett would not answer, Republican senators in the room backed her up.

Barrett faced tough questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris on climate change — an issue 42% of Americans identify as "very important" in terms of how they will vote in the 2020 election.

But Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana made a mockery of the topic by asking the Supreme Court nominee if she hated "little warm puppies."  

Barrett, who was nominated by a president who's suggested climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese government, laughed in response.

Americans who were hoping to hear directly from Barrett on where she stands on vital issues during her confirmation hearings were likely disappointed this week. But at the end of the day, we know where she stands on almost every issue — all you have to do is look at the voting records of Republicans. And that's precisely why GOP senators are rushing to confirm Barrett with less than three weeks until Election Day. 

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