WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on Sept. 26 nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, setting the stage for a heated nomination battle in Congress ahead of the November election.
Trump announced his choice at the White House, where Barrett accepted the nomination.
“I looked and I studied, and you are very eminently qualified for this job,” Trump told Barrett at the White House, describing her as “one of the nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds.”
Trump has praised Barrett multiple times in recent days. News of the president’s choice broke a day prior to the ceremony.
Trump had whittled down his list of 45 to five women, opting to replace Ginsburg, the senior liberal judge on the court, with another woman. The only other woman he had named as being on the shortlist was Barbara Lagoa, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11 Circuit, but the president appeared not to meet with her while in Florida this week.
“They’re all very outstanding people—top of line academically and every way possible,” Trump told reporters in Maryland on Sept. 25.
The confirmation hearings for Barrett will begin on Oct. 12 and last three or four days.
Barrett’s husband and seven children attended the ceremony and sat beside First Lady Melania Trump.
“I love the United States, and I love the United States Constitution. I’m truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court,” Barrett said. “Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me. The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life.”
Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a group that works outside the government to help select conservative judges, told The Epoch Times that Barrett is “an incredibly brilliant woman” who has shown “her commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law” as both a scholar and judge.
Severino added that Barrett’s record of facing attacks on her faith during her confirmation hearing several years ago could serve to calm those who are anxious about Republican-appointed justices veering to the left down the road, pointing to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
“She’s someone who has demonstrated courage in her life up to this point. It’s her record of courage that would alleviate people’s concerns in that area,” she said.
Trump’s announcement came a little more than a week after Ginsburg’s death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 87.
If confirmed, Barrett would further tilt the Supreme Court in favor of conservatives, giving them a 6–3 advantage on the nine-member court. The confirmation could have far-reaching implications on issues such as abortion, Obamacare, gun rights, and challenges to the result of the 2020 election.
Barrett, a Roman Catholic and mother of seven, has the backing of many conservative groups, in part for her perceived hostility to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down state-level restrictions on abortion.
Barrett, 48, earned her juris doctorate at Notre Dame Law School in 1997. She served as a law clerk to Judge Laurence Silberman of the District of Columbia Circuit and then-Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
She returned to Notre Dame in 2002 to teach in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law, and statutory interpretation and became a professor in 2010.
In 2017, Barrett was confirmed in a 55–43 vote by the U.S. Senate to serve on the 7th Circuit. At the time, every full-time member of Notre Dame Law School’s faculty signed a letter of support for her nomination, as did lawyers who clerked at the Supreme Court the same year as Barrett.
“She conducted herself with professionalism, grace, and integrity,” her colleagues stated in a letter. “But perhaps as importantly, she treated with courtesy everyone who worked at the Court and she was able to work collaboratively with her colleagues (even those with whom she disagreed) on challenging legal questions.”
When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, Barrett was among the top contenders for the Supreme Court seat vacancy, which was ultimately filled by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second nomination.
Her husband, Jesse Barrett, serves as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. Two of their children are adopted from Haiti.
“She is a textualist-originalist,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders.”
“She views her role as a judge as involving the interpretation of the law based on what it says, based on what words are used, and how those words were understood publicly at the time of their adoption either into the Constitution or into whatever statutes being interpreted. It’s exactly the kind of justice President Trump wants, and that the country needs right now.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote on Twitter that Barrett throughout her career “has maintained the importance of an independent judiciary that interprets the law & Constitution as-written, operating free from political pressure.”
“Judge Barrett has impressed the brightest judicial and legal minds with her profound understanding of the law. I look forward to meeting with her in the coming days as the Judiciary Committee prepares for her confirmation hearing,” he said, urging Democrats to refrain from character attacks, which they resorted to during the Kavanaugh confirmation battle.
Trump on Sept. 26 said Barrett “will decide cases based on the text of the Constitution as written.”
Republicans will try to fast-track the nomination, with just over a month left before the Nov. 3 election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said Trump’s nominee will get a vote on the Senate floor this year, though he hasn’t committed to a vote before the election.
Both sides view the upcoming battle as positive for their reelection chances. Democrats want to hold onto the House of Representatives and flip the Senate while unseating Trump; Republicans hope to continue to hold the Senate, keep the presidency, and take back the House.
Top Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have said they’ll go to great lengths to try to block the nomination.
“Everything is on the table,” Schumer told reporters this week.
Barrett’s previous vetting for her appeals court position gives Republicans something to point to in propelling the nomination forward.
“There was a pretty comprehensive background check done on Judge Barrett,” Lee said, which he said could help speed up the approval process.
During the judiciary hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, and other lawmakers grilled Barrett over how her faith would inform her rulings.
“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern,” the senator told Barrett, a comment that prompted accusations of religious bigotry.
But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also wondered how Barrett’s faith would guide her work as a judge, who pointed to an article she wrote that appeared to direct Catholic judges to recuse themselves from cases concerning the death penalty.
Barrett said she wrote the article 20 years prior, adding, “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
Democrats want to stall the nomination and eventually stymie it, but there’s solid support across the aisle for Barrett aside from Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Murkowski said she couldn’t rule out voting “no” for Trump’s nominee, while Collins has said she will vote “no” if the confirmation vote is before election.
Republicans hold a 53–47 majority in the upper congressional body. Vice President Mike Pence can break ties. A simple majority vote is needed to advance the nominee from the Judiciary Committee, and again in a full Senate vote.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said the GOP has enough votes.
Ginsburg, who wanted Republicans to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, reportedly told a family member on her deathbed that she wants “a new president” to replace her, an apparent reference to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“That was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish, her most fervent wish, that she should not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Sept. 21, calling for Republicans to adhere to the wish.
But Republicans say that the wish, if true, illustrates Ginsburg’s entry into politics. The justice came out against Trump during the 2016 election before later apologizing.
Republicans also point to the precedent of confirming justices in election years and the importance of having nine judges on the court for decisions before the New Year.
“You’re going to need nine justices up there,” Trump said on Sept. 22 outside the White House. “I think it’s going to be very important. Because what they’re doing is a hoax with the ballots.”
“They’re sending out tens of millions of ballots, unsolicited—not where they’re being asked, but unsolicited. And that’s a hoax, and you’re going to need to have nine justices.”
Conservative and liberal groups are gearing up for what is expected to be another battle, with early predictions pointing to attacks on Barrett’s adopted children.
Matthew Vadum and Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.