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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island challenged Amy Coney Barrett to act without regard to the billionaires who are funding the campaign to put her on the Supreme Court.
Senator Whitehouse is keenly aware of the Dark Money that wants to deregulate business, overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and reverse gay marriage.
Will Justice Barrett ignore his pleas?
Follow the money.
Meanwhile, John Cassidy of the New Yorker described the hearings as a sham, since the Republicans have the 51 votes to confirm her. She can punt on every question and give evasive answers, and the Democrats sputter with rage, hopelessly.
If Supreme Court nomination hearings are thought of as quasi-judicial proceedings to determine whether someone deserves to spend decades on the nation’s highest legal bench, it was clear well before Tuesday morning, when Amy Coney Barrett started taking questions from the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that this hearing would be a “sham”—the term that Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, used to describe it on Monday. In this era of permanent political warfare, loyalty to party and President long ago trumped the “advice and consent” clause in Article II of the Constitution, which granted the U.S. Senate the exclusive right to approve or reject treaties and judicial nominations.
Absent some sensational new revelation, such as the allegations of sexual assault that Christine Blasey Ford levelled at Brett Kavanaugh, in October, 2018, nomination hearings these days tend to be bloodless affairs. Citing the need to preserve their independence and maintain an open mind, the nominees point-blank refuse to say anything about the most consequential cases that they are likely to be called upon to decide, and the senators, robbed of any real judicial function, resort to giving political speeches. Some of Tuesday’s hearing fell into this depressing pattern. And with Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, seemingly having the fifty-one votes needed for Barrett’s confirmation in his pocket, it was robbed of political tension. Make no mistake, the rushing through of Barrett’s nomination four years after McConnell denied even a hearing to Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland is an antidemocratic heist of historic dimensions—a point I emphasizedwhen the news of her nomination broke. But this is a crime that the cops—McConnell and his Republican colleagues—aren’t merely in on: they are planning and executing it. Success is virtually guaranteed.
This being so, the main point of interest on Tuesday was Barrett’s performance, and whether she would be able to maintain the convenient fiction that, if elevated to the Supreme Court, she will behave like a baseball umpire, calling balls and strikes without any regard to her personal feelings. “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 said in her opening statement on Monday. If the former Notre Dame law professor had donned a black polo shirt and M.L.B. hat, the messaging couldn’t have been more plain.
She adopted the same stance on Tuesday morning. “Let me be clear, I have made no commitment to anyone—not in this Senate, not over at the White House—about how I would decide any case,” she told Senator Patrick Leahy, the octogenarian Democratic warhorse of Vermont, who had the temerity to suggest that Donald Trump would be counting on her vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act in a case that is scheduled to come before the Court a week after the election. During a cordial back-and-forth, Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, asked Barrett if she agreed with the late Antonin Scalia, whom she clerked for and has cited as her role model, that good judges, in their faithfulness to the letter of the law and its original intent, sometimes reach decisions that they don’t like. “I do agree with that,” Barrett replied. “That has been my experience on the Seventh Circuit so far.”
Despite Barrett’s evasiveness, her Democratic interlocutors did highlight some of the prior associations and expressions of belief that she was so keen to downplay. Leahy got her to acknowledge that, in 2006, she signed a public letter from St. Joseph County Right to Life, an Indiana anti-abortion group, which, in some of its other literature, had taken the position that in-vitro fertilization is equivalent to manslaughter. Barrett said that she signed the letter, which she had failed to disclose in the materials she sent to the committee, “almost fifteen years ago quickly on my way out of church” and hadn’t been aware of the group’s other materials, a point she repeated later in the hearing. Leahy also quizzed Barrett about a lecture she gave to the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a Christian program run by an ultraconservative organization called Alliance Defending Freedom. “Were you aware of the A.D.F.’s decades-long efforts to recriminalize homosexuality?” Leahy asked. Barrett replied, “I am not aware of those efforts, no.” These expressions of ignorance were jarringly at odds with the voluminous knowledge and instant recall she displayed in many of her other answers.
Cassidy goes on to describe how Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois caught ACB in a contradiction, but you will have to read the rest of the article to learn about how he did it.