With President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both vowing to put up a replacement to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this year, all eyes are on who Trump will tap to replace the court’s liberal lion, and there is one contender that stands out among the pack: Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
University of Notre Dame
Trump put forth a list of 40 names, including U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Barbara Lagoa and Allison Rushing – two of the top female contenders, according to Fox News – and flashier, controversial names like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
Coney Barrett is widely reported as the frontrunner for the seat, having previously been a top contender to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018, with Trump telling allies he was “saving her for Ginsburg,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported.
She has articulated anti-abortion views, and is a member Catholic group People of Praise, which has adherents swear “loyalty oaths” to each other and assigns them personal advisors.
During the hearings for her ultimately successful nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein told Coney Barrett, “dogma lives loudly within you,” which the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote was a reference to Coney Barrett’s views on abortion.
Barrett, 48, is a University of Notre Dame law professor who resides in South Bend, Indiana with her husband, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and current partner at SouthBank Legal, and has seven children – five biological and two adopted from Haiti
Like several of the court’s more conservative justices, Coney Barrett has described herself as an “originalist,” meaning she bases her rulings on what she believes was the original intent of the Constitution’s authors. A social conservative, Coney Barrett signed a joint letter in 2015, prior to becoming a judge, affirming “the value of human life from conception to natural death” and asserting that marriage is “founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman” — which raised concerned among LGBTQ groups that she would oppose gay marriage.
Coney Barrett has criticized landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States, as “creating through judicial fiat a framework of abortion on demand.” However, she has also said it is “very unlikely” the court would ever overturn the decision. “The controversy right now is about funding,” she stated in 2018. “It’s a question of whether abortions will be publicly or privately funded.”
Democrats have been firmly opposed to nominating anyone before the next president is sworn in because of past precedent. Feinstein alleged hypocrisy, citing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence in 2016 that Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 not be considered due to it being an election year. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) seized on Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham’s statement in 2018 pledge that “if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.”
Graham went even further with his commitment to not considering a nominee in 2020 two years earlier. “I want you to use my words against me,” he said in 2016. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.” However, Graham told Fox News in 2019 he is “hell bent” on confirming a replacement for Ginsburg.
What To Watch For
McConnell, a fierce champion of conservative judicial nominees with a unique adeptness for shepherding them through – and blocking them – has firmly committed to giving Trump’s pick a vote on the Senate floor. But with just a 3-seat majority (plus the vice presidency) and a large number of vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection in November, he may struggle to find the votes he needs. Some vulnerable Senators, like Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) have already thrown their support behind confirming a nominee. Others, like Mitt Romney (R-Utah), have yet to state a clear position.