by Havann Brown, staff writer
OCTOBER 2020 — The Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the highest court in the land on October 26. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18 at the age of 87, of metastatic pancreatic cancer. One week later, President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy. This announcement came just 38 days before the 2020 presidential election.
Amy Coney Barrett is a devout Catholic and self-described “originalist,” meaning she interprets the Constitution as it was written and does not incorporate her views into it. At 48-years-old, Barett has worked as a law professor at Notre Dame, clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and was nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. She is the third justice appointed to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.
Coney Barrett’s past opinions and rulings have revealed her right-wing stance on issues like healthcare, Roe v. Wade, immigration, and gun rights. Many students at Bio-Med Science Academy have expressed their concerns about a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Juniors Kate Donovan and Nora Haddon described the future of the court as a “conservative revolution that would stop all progress” and “a major setback for social justice.”
The Senate hearing to confirm Judge Barrett began on October 12. Robert Greenwood, a junior at Bio-Med, stated, “the hearings should not happen this close to the election because Republicans set a precedent four years ago.” When Democratic senators pointed out the hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell, he argued that the situation is different than four years ago, since the GOP now controls both the Senate and White House.
In 2016, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court because it was an election year. On the Senate floor, McConnell said, “the American people should have a say in the court’s direction. It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on the president and withhold its consent,”as published by NPR. The eleven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter saying they had no intention of consenting to any nominee from Obama.
Democrats were not able to stop Judge Barett’s confirmation process, because of Republicans’ 53-47 majority in the senate. At the beginning of the hearing, The New York Times reported Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC), proclaimed, “This is probably not about persuading each other unless something dramatic happens… All Republicans will vote yes and all of the democrats will vote no.” Coney Barrett was expected to be confirmed to the court unless four Republican senators voted against her, which was highly unlikely.
Despite being questioned, the Senate hearing revealed little on how Amy Coney Barrett would rule as a judge on the Supreme Court. She was asked extensively on issues relating to voting rights and healthcare. On November 10, a week after the election, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in California v. Texas, a challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Barrett’s presence on the court would contribute to a conservative majority that would have the power to rule the ACA as unconstitutional. Freshman, Logan Cook, believes the court will attempt to “overturn Obamacare as soon as Amy Coney Barrett joins.” Democratic senators used the hearing to emphasize that Republicans were rushing the confirmation process so the court can repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away healthcare from millions of Americans.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Barett’s nomination on October 22, and the entire Senate voted the following week. With the presidential election occurring just days after Barrett’s confirmation, close results in swing states and disputes over absentee ballots could allow the Supreme Court to decide the outcome of the 2020 election. Colin Martau, the sophomore history teacher, stated he does not anticipate that the court will decide the results but, “President Trump is intentionally creating mistrust in mail-in voting, which has existed in states for years. That mistrust is strategic on his part so that if there’s any uncertainty about the legitimacy of the election he will have the conservative majority on the Supreme Court backing him.”