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 Ginsbur g 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.

———

Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Michael Balsamo in Washington, Elana Schor in New York and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.

(21) comments

jerseygrl42

She is OUTSTANDING!

PurplePickles aka L&M

Barrett vows to interpret laws 'as they are written' she will interpret the laws how she is paid to interpret the laws.

Tracing the Money Behind the Supreme Court Case Against Obamacare

Most of the state attorneys general suing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act were elected with corporate backing.

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/tracing-money-behind-supreme-court-case-against-obamacare

Hayduke2

Funny, when you use the word "interpret" the words as they are written, are you not injecting your own experiences and leanings into the process? Ignoring precidents, changes over 200 years and current events is a mistake and it will stiffle this country.

newspostreader

"Barrett vows to interpret laws 'as they are written" - Yep, as long as she can throw in her extremely conservative views instead of equality for all.

Dwasserba

We don't know that.

Hayduke2

Dwass - based on her past writing and history, we DO know that.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Deb! They said the same thing about Kennedy in the '60s answering to the Pope, relying on folks bigotry against Catholics to prevent him from being elected. It didn't work then either.

bosco

Somebody who will interpret the laws as written has the radical left liberals in a tizzy because they won't be able to legislate from the bench.

[ninja]

Hayduke2

Interpret --- to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgment, or circumstance :

NewMarketParent

If they felt like she would make it through in any other circumstance, they should nominate her and then see if she could make it through approval after the next Congress is seated. But, they won't because she represents a stolen seat.

C.D.Reid

A "stolen seat?" A S.C. justice died and it's the president's job to nominate another one. There's nothing in the books that says he has to wait, for any reason. And besides, was it not Ginsburg who said that "A president serves for four years, not three?" So, just because the Left doesn't like Trump's nominee that does not mean that ACB's vetting and approval should not go through. You know full well that if the tables were turned, the Democrats would do exactly the same thing, and anyone who says differently is either delusional or a liar.

bosco

TDS really burrows into the left's brains so much that they choose a trojan horse candidate to be their puppet for the squad and to take the US into socialism.

Read the Bernie-Biden socialist manifesto.

[ninja]

DickD

The Catholic Church is consumed by abortion. Nothing else matter. Barrett is a rubber stamp of that and she has made it very clear. The Church is okay with pedophiles which they cover up and it will always be that way as the Church refuses to allow women to be priests. A clear signal that women are not equal in the eyes of the Catholic Church. And stopping legal abortion will not stop abortions. It will only cause the death of many young women.

The Affordable Care Act needs changes not ending. In spite of all Donald Trump's lies about replacing the Affordable Care Act nothing has been proposed. The Republicans are challenging this in court as they lie to the public about a replacement.

sevenstones1000

She is not a Catholic, she’s a member of a cult. Keep her off the SCOTUS.

The Duggars have lots of kids, too. It’s not that hard if you have money.

NewMarketParent

@sevenstones1000

They also have a sexual predator son if I am not mistaken.

gabrielshorn2013

Pickles, what does that have to do with Judge Barrett?

bnick467

We need to end this experiment of allowing two branches of the government to choose the members of the third branch that is responsible for keeping the other two from gaining too much power. As we can see, it isn't working out.

gabrielshorn2013

Experiment? It was deliberately designed this way, and has been working for over 235 years.

Article V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Have at it.

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

NewMarketParent

They just need to pack the bench. Being able to expand the bench is allowed. Respecting norms works both ways.

gabrielshorn2013

So what would the upper limit be? 10? 15? 100? Does each administration get to pack on more Justices to tilt the court in their favor and obtain the rulings they want? FDR tried this in the 1930s, and it failed miserably. Nine is probably ideal to get a broader spectrum of legal opinion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_Procedures_Reform_Bill_of_1937

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