Barrett vows to interpret laws 'as they are written'

Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney, Photo Date: 10/12/20

At her confirmation hearing, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has declared that Americans deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets the Constitution and laws "as they are written."

Posted: Oct 12, 2020 1:45 PM
Updated: Oct 13, 2020 9:12 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett declared Monday that Americans “deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written," encapsulating her conservative approach to the law that has Republicans excited about the prospect of her taking the place of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day.

Barrett spoke about her judicial philosophy, her experience and her large family at the end of the first day of her fast-tracked confirmation hearings that Senate Democrats are using to try and brand her a threat to Americans’ health care during the coronavirus pandemic.

After sitting in silence through nearly four hours of opening statements from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the 48-year-old federal appeals court judge laid out her approach to the bench, which she has likened to that of her conservative mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Courts have a vital responsibility to the rule of rule of law, which is critical to a free society. But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life," Barrett said in a statement she delivered after removing the protective mask she wore most of the day.

“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try,.”

She told senators that she is “forever grateful” for Ginsburg’s trailblazing path as a woman on the court.

Yet Sen. Kamala Harris, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's running mate, said the court is “often the last refuge for equal justice” and a Barrett nomination puts in jeopardy everything Ginsburg fought to protect.

Testifying from her office because of the pandemic, Harris said that not only health care but voting rights, workers' rights, abortion rights and the very idea of justice are at stake.

Republicans called Barrett a thoughtful judge with impeccable credentials.

Barring a dramatic development, Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm her to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. If she is confirmed quickly, she could be on the court when it hears the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, a week after the election.

One after another, Democrats sought to tie her nomination to the upcoming court case.

“Health care coverage for millions of Americans is at stake with this nomination,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s senior Democrat.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the nomination is a “judicial torpedo aimed” at the law's protection for people with pre-existing health conditions among its provisions. The Trump administration wants the court to strike down the entire law popularly known as “Obamacare” on Nov. 10. Barrett has criticized the court's two earlier major rulings supporting the law.

Among Republicans, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, dismissed warnings Barrett will undo the Obama-era healthcare law as “outrageous.”

Trump himself seemed to be watching, tweeting several times about the hearing. In one message, he tweeted that he’d have a “FAR BETTER” health care plan, with lower costs and protections for pre-existing conditions. But he has not, as yet, discussed an actual health care plan.

Republicans also warned against making Barrett’s Catholicism an issue in the confirmation debate, especially in regard to her stance on abortion, with Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri lambasting what he called a “pattern and practice of religious bigotry” by Democrats. However, Democratic senators made clear in advance of the hearing that they didn't plan to question the judge on the specifics of her religious faith.

Democratic presidential nominee Biden, also a practicing Catholic, told reporters ahead of a campaign trip to Ohio that he doesn’t think “there’s any question about her faith.”

Barrett’s religious views and past leadership role in a Catholic faith community pose a challenge for Democrats as they try to probe her judicial approach to abortion, gay marriage and other social issues without veering into inappropriate questions of her faith.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, meeting on a federal holiday, kicked off four days of statements and testimony in an environment that has been altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Some senators were taking part remotely, and the hearing room itself was arranged with health concerns in mind.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., opened the hearing acknowledging “the COVID problem in America is real." But he said, “We do have a country that needs to move forward safely.”

Graham acknowledged the obvious: “This is going to be a long, contentious week.”

Protesters rallied outside the Senate buildings with the hearing room largely closed to the public. Capitol Police said 22 people were arrested and charged on suspicion of crowding, obstructing or other violations.

Republicans are moving at a breakneck pace to seat Barrett before the Nov. 3 election to secure Trump's pick, which would put her on the bench for any election-related challenges.

Democrats are trying in vain to delay the fast-track confirmation by raising fresh concerns about the safety of meeting during the pandemic after two GOP senators on the panel tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of those who tested positive, was in the hearing room Monday after his spokesman said he was symptom-free. The other affected senator, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, was participating remotely, though he too is symptom-free, his spokesman said. Both tested positive 10 days ago.

Trump chose Barrett after the death last month of Ginsburg, a liberal icon. It's the opportunity to entrench a conservative majority on the court for years to come with his third justice.

Outside groups are pushing Democrats to make a strong case against what they call an illegitimate confirmation, when people are already voting in some states, saying the winner of the presidency should make the pick. No Supreme Court justice has ever been confirmed so close to a presidential contest.

The country is getting an extended look at Barrett this week in hearings like none other during the heated election environment and the pandemic limiting public access.

Faith and family punctuated her testimony, and she said she would bring “a few new perspectives” as the first mother of school-age children on the nine-member court.

Barrett said she uses her children as a test when deciding cases, asking herself how she would view the decision if one of her seven children were the party she was ruling against.

“Even though I would not like the result, would I understand that the decision was fairly reasoned and grounded in the law?” she said.

The hearing followed a White House event announcing her nomination just over two weeks ago, in which most of the audience did not wear masks. The event has been labeled a “superspreader” for the coronavirus.

More than two dozen people linked to the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event, including the two GOP senators, have contracted COVID-19 since then. Barrett and her family went maskless at the event. She and her husband, Jesse, tested positive for the virus earlier this year and recovered, two administration officials have said.

Democrats already were enraged that Republicans are moving so quickly having refused to consider President Barack Obama nominee after Scalia's death in February 2016, well before that year's election.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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