WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump has nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Trump called nominating a Supreme Court Justice “one of my highest and most important duties under the United States Constitution.”
Heaping praise on Barrett, Trump called her, “one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds.”
“I looked and I studied, and you are going to be imminently qualified for the job,” Trump said of Barrett.
Trump joked that Barrett’s confirmation process will be “extremely noncontroversial” before urging lawmakers and members of the media to treat her fairly.
“I further urge all members of the other side of the aisle to provide Judge Barrett with the respectful and dignified hearing she deserves, and, frankly, that our country deserves,” he said, adding, “I urge lawmakers and members of the media to refrain from personal or partisan attacks.”
“I fully understand that this is a momentous decision for a president,” Barrett said. “I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution.”
“If the Senate does me the honor of confirming me, I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the very best of my ability,” she added.
The president has long promised to choose a candidate who would uphold conservative values on the nation’s highest court, and his pick will certainly deliver.
The 48-year-old federal appeals court judge was considered for the Supreme Court in 2018 when then-Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, before Trump nominated Kenndy’s former clerk Brett Kavanaugh.
“I’m saving her for Ginsburg,” Trump once said privately of Barrett, Axios reported.
If confirmed, Barrett would be the youngest Supreme Court Justice, and her tenure could last for decades.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BARRETT
Barrett was a law professor at the University of Notre Dame before Trump appointed her to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.
A devout Catholic, she is popular among Christians and anti-abortion activists — her past academic writings suggest she might be open to overturning Roe v. Wade.
Concerns arose in Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing that her faith might impact her rulings; in a memorable exchange, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), told her, “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
Barrett insisted her personal beliefs would have “no bearing” on her legal decisions. And the exchange with Feinstein only seems to have made her more beloved in conservative circles.
Notably, in a 2016 interview with CBS News, Barrett slammed then-President Obama for nominating Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, opposing the idea of filling a vacancy in an election year.
“We’re talking about Justice Scalia, the staunchest conservative on the court,” Barrett said. “We’re talking about him being replaced by someone who could dramatically flip the balance of power on the court. It’s not a lateral move.”
The selection of Barrett puts Roe v. Wade back in the spotlight ahead of November’s election, as her judicial record has shown her to be a staunch opponent of abortion.
Since being appointed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, she has reviewed two abortion cases:
- In Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc., in which the court voted to block an Indiana law that would have required doctors notify parents if a minor sought an abortion, Barrett joined a dissent saying that law should have been allowed to go into effect.
It’s important to note that this case reached the Supreme Court, the first major abortion-related case since Justice Kennedy retired and was replaced by Justice Kavanaugh. Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided to uphold part of the Indiana law, allowing Indiana to enforce a requirement that abortion clinics either bury or cremate fetal remains following an abortion.
Justice Ginsburg dissented in this case, writing in a solo opinion that she believed the case implicates “the right of [a] woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State.”
- In Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc., the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately declined to re-hear the case, which involved an Indiana law that would have banned abortions on the basis of sex, race, or disability.
Barrett joined the dissent, which called for the case to be reheard.
In a discussion at Jacksonville University in 2016, Barrett said that she believes the Supreme Court will not overturn Roe, saying that she doesn’t think, “the core case, Roe’s core holding that women have a right to an abortion, I don’t think that would change.”
“But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that will change,” she added.
Trump’s announcement comes just over a week after Justice Ginsburg passed away at 87 years old due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Trump called Ginsburg “a legal giant and a pioneer for women.”
Of Ginsburg, Barrett said, “should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me,” adding “she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. For that, she has admiration from women around the world.”
If confirmed, Barrett will be Trump’s third appointee to the Supreme Court: Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed in April 2017, and Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed in October 2018.
But Democrats – and at least two key Republican senators – will likely pose challenges to the confirmation process.
Trump’s opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has repeatedly called for the next president to nominate a justice, citing the decision in 2016 by Senate Republicans to block Obama’s nominee’s confirmation in the leadup to the election.
“If Donald Trump wins the election, then the Senate should move on his selection and weigh the nominee he chooses fairly,” Biden said in Philadelphia last weekend. “But if I win this election, President Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn and as a new president, I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg’s successor.”
According to NPR, before her death, Justice Ginsburg told her granddaughter Clara Spera that “my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Trump has dismissed this, saying “I don’t know that she said that,” before falsely claiming that it was written by a top Democrat such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) or Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
“That came out of the wind. It sounds so beautiful, but that sounds like a Schumer deal, or maybe Pelosi or Shifty Schiff,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” on Monday.
NPR stands by its reporting. Longtime NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg told MSNBC that she confirmed her reporting on Ginsburg’s statement with others in the room, including her doctor.
“I checked because I’m a reporter,” Totenberg said.
Ginsburg will be buried next week in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery next to her beloved husband, Martin Ginsburg.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he will bring Trump’s nominee to a vote before Election Day.
First, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), will have to hold hearings. Also on the committee will be Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, who will no doubt make headlines with her questioning, similar to the ones she made during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings for her fierce interrogation style.
If voted out of committee, Barrett’s nomination will move to a full vote in the Senate in mid- to late-October. The Senate currently stands at 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with Democrats.
McConnell only needs 51 votes, and with just two high-profile Senate Republicans coming out in opposition, he appears to have them.
Though the court can break down along ideological lines in high-profile cases, Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues resist the idea that they are politicians in robes and emphasize that they agree more than they disagree.
Still, Barrett’s appointment would make the court more conservative. It would be transformed from a court divided 5-4 between conservatives and liberals to one in which six members are conservatives appointed by Republican presidents. Barrett has been hailed as a justice in the mold of Justice Scalia, for whom she clerked.
Trump’s campaign is preparing to use the latest confirmation fight for maximum political effect with only 38 days until Election Day.
“This is big jet fuel on our base,” Bill Schuette, a Trump campaign surrogate, told the Associated Press. “This is going to fire up our base in order to support the responsibility of the Senate and the president to make the nomination, the Senate to confirm.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.