Republicans in Congress lauded President Trump for his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court Saturday night while Democrats predicted her confirmation could be a death knell for a number of liberal priorities, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Roe v. Wade.
Barrett, of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is up to fill the Supreme Court seat of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazer for women's rights and the face of the liberal bloc of the court. Barrett's confirmation would significantly tip its ideological balance in favor of conservatives.
"I stand before you to fulfill one of my highest and most important duties," Trump said in remarks before he introduced Barrett, who he called "one of our nation's most brilliant and gifted legal minds."
Congressional Republicans overwhelmingly approved of the nomination and characterized Barrett as "exceptionally impressive," re-upping their promises to put Trump's nominee to a vote on the floor of the Senate.
"President Trump could not have made a better decision," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, said in a statement. "Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States."
He added: "First, Judge Barrett built a reputation as a brilliant scholar at the forefront of the legal academy. Then she answered the call to public service. For three years on the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, she has demonstrated exactly the independence, impartiality, and fidelity to our laws and Constitution that Americans need and deserve on their highest Court... As I have stated, this nomination will receive a vote on the Senate floor in the weeks ahead, following the work of the Judiciary Committee supervised by Chairman Graham."
Democrats, on the other hand, slammed Barrett and the president over potential rulings they believe Barrett would make if given the opportunity.
"The American people should make no mistake—a vote by any Senator for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
He added: "Should Judge Amy Coney Barrett be confirmed, a far-right majority on the court could also turn back the clock on women’s rights and a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental protections and more. The future for DACA recipients also hangs in the balance with this nominee."
Schumer said that Republicans were ignoring the "dying wish" of Ginsburg that she be replaced only after the presidential election and said that "I will strongly oppose this nomination."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., added: "What’s at stake with this nomination is the fate of affordable, quality health care and pre-existing conditions protections for millions of Americans.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., also warned about the potential ramifications of Barrett, but also slammed Republicans for considering a Supreme Court nominee so close to an election.
"There are now only 38 days until the election, and early voting has already begun in many states. No Supreme Court vacancy has been filled this close to a presidential election," she said. "The Senate should not consider any Supreme Court nominee until the American people have spoken in November and the next president has been inaugurated."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., another Senate Judiciary Committee member, said that he would "refuse to treat this process as legitimate & will not meet with Judge Amy Coney Barrett."
Democrats have accused Republicans of rank hypocrisy for planning to advance a Supreme Court nomination so close to the election after blocking Obama nominee Judge Merrick Garland in 2016 months ahead of the election.
But McConnell and Republicans have argued that Senate precedent shows the body generally confirms Supreme Court nominees when the Senate and White House are in the same hands and declined to do so when the government is divided. They say their majority in 2014 was elected to oppose Obama and in 2018 to support Trump.
The Senate hasn’t considered a Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year since 1940. The Senate voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy in January of that year. It also confirmed Justice Benjamin Cardozo in Feb. 1932 and before that Justice Louis Brandeis in Jan. 1916.
Democrats, of course, overwhelmingly called on the Senate move on Garland in 2016 but are now opposing any action on Barrett.
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is a member of the judiciary committee, warned that Barrett could be the vote on the Supreme Court that leads to the end of Roe v. Wade.
"Trump’s hand-picked successor to Justice Ginsburg’s seat makes it clear: they intend to destroy the Affordable Care Act & overturn Roe. This selection would move the court further right for a generation & harm millions of Americans," she said. "I strongly oppose Judge Barrett’s nomination."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee seemed to reference the nasty confirmation battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his statement calling for a civil hearing on Barrett's nomination.
"As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’m very committed to ensuring that the nominee gets a challenging, fair, and respectful hearing," Graham said. "We move forward on this nomination knowing that the President has picked a highly qualified individual who will serve our nation well on the highest court in the land."
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., slammed Democrats over attacks they've leveled against Barrett already but said he trusts that she can make it through the confirmation process.
"Judge Amy Coney Barrett seems made for this moment. She is a brilliant legal scholar who has come face-to-face with the appalling attacks of the far-left and won," Cramer said. "While these radicals have already started repackaging their cookie-cutter, anti-Christian attacks on her and gone after her family, I trust President Trump is putting forward a nominee in Judge Barrett who is ready for this fight. I look forward to learning more about her and visiting with her to discuss her nomination.”
And Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., known for his witty press releases, lauded Barrett for her judicial philosophy, arguing that she won't attempt to make policy from the bench.
"Despite her unsurpassed character, reputation, and intellect, this confirmation process will be nasty. Why? Because too many on the left (and sadly some on the right as well) want judges who will substitute their own will for the law," Sasse said. " Judge Barrett is not that kind of judge. She believes her duty isn’t to arbitrarily slop applesauce on stone tablets and declare new laws — her duty is to cloak her personal views under a black robe and to faithfully uphold the Constitution. That makes her a problem to rabid partisans, and an ally to the rule of law."
Reaction also poured in from House members.
"Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an excellent pick by President Trump for the Supreme Court," Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said. "She is a brilliant legal mind and solid conservative. The Senate should confirm her immediately."
Countered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif: "If this nominee is confirmed, millions of families’ health care will be ripped away in the middle of a pandemic that has infected seven million Americans and killed over 200,000 people in our country... Every vote to confirm this nominee is a vote to dismantle health care. The American people will hold every Senator responsible for their vote at the ballot box."