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President Trump: Today, it is my honor to nominate one of our nation's most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett: If the Senate does meet the honor of confirming me, I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the very best of my ability. The president has nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court and that institution belongs to all of us. I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine too. A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold. Members of the United States Senate, I look forward to working with you during the confirmation process, and I will do my very best to demonstrate that I am worthy of your support. Thank you.
President Trump: This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation, should be very easy. Good luck. It's going to be very quick.
Amy Walter: It's Politics with Amy Walter on The Takeaway. On Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat left vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If confirmed, Judge Barrett will be the third Trump appointee to the Supreme Court. For more on her background and what to expect in the weeks to come, I turn to-
Gabby Orr: Gabby Orr, and I'm a White House reporter for POLITICO.
Amy: I want you to tell us a little bit about Amy Coney Barrett. What do we need to know about her?
Gabby: She was essentially groomed for this moment. She's obviously been on the circuit court since 2017 when she was appointed to it by President Trump. Ever since that moment, during her confirmation hearings, where Senator Feinstein, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, got into that tense exchange with her, where she infamously said-
Senator Feinstein: The dogma lives loudly within you, and that's of concern.
Gabby: It caught the attention of the president, of the vice president, of then-White House Counsel, Don McGahn, and it rocketed her to internal fame within the White House. She came up for consideration when Justice Kennedy left and created a vacancy that was ultimately filled by Brett Kavanaugh. Ever since then, the President has had his eye on her for this moment. I don't think anybody anticipated that it would happen quite when it did.
Amy: Right. Well, talk to us a little bit about that 2017 hearing because, again, that wasn't all that long ago that she appeared before many of the people she's going to appear before again. What was that hearing like? Was it pretty just traditional until that moment, or was it pretty contentious?
Gabby: I would say it was a mix of both, and that's how these things go, typically. There will be your typical questions, procedural questions, the vetting of a candidate's traditional background and their philosophy, and then, when they face questions from the opposing party, in this case, from Democrats on the committee. For her, there were a lot of questions about, what is your consideration of the precedent on cases like Roe v Wade, or how would you rule in a case dealing with the Second Amendment, religious freedom, immigration, all of the hot button cultural issues that this president has obviously promised to appoint conservative judges because he wants rulings that go a certain way.
They asked her a lot about her judicial philosophy, textualism, and originalism. There were other moments that stood, out but it was that iconic exchange with Senator Feinstein that really essentially branded Judge Barrett as this hero in conservative circles, as somebody who is devoutly Catholic and didn't respond to that line of questioning in a combative way when everybody else on the right thought that she should have.
Amy: In terms of her answering those questions on Roe v Wade and the Second Amendment and others, what can we glean from how she answered those questions in 2017 to how she's going to approach it now?
Gabby: Great question. She has said previously in the questionnaires that you have to fill out for the Senate Judiciary Committee that she does consider the precedent of Roe v Wade to be established law. That being said, there are external factors that we know about Judge Barrett that might indicate, if given the chance to chip away at Roe v Wade or to dismantle it through other decisions that might come to the court if she's sitting on it, that she would rule in favor of further restrictions on abortion.
We know that she was involved in a group of pro-life professors when she was at Notre Dame. We know, again, that she is devoutly Catholic and belongs to a charismatic, conservative Catholic group. We know that she has previously indicated, despite saying the precedent of Roe is firm, that she believes ultimately it was wrongly decided. That's something that has really rallied conservatives behind her and has been important in terms of getting Senate Republicans behind her because that is somewhat of a smell test that she needed to pass in order to get the support of people like Senator Josh Hawley, who has been pushing and pushing for stronger vetting for the president's conservative judicial appointees.
Amy: What about the issue of healthcare? Obviously, Democrats have been telegraphing this now for days that that's what they intend to focus on, the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the Affordable Care Act. Amy Coney Barrett has also made some comments, written some things about the healthcare law. Can you help us understand what exactly she said and the context around that?
Gabby: She wrote a book review in the Notre Dame Law Journal of a book about the Affordable Care Act. In it, she essentially said that she felt Chief Justice Roberts' decision to essentially uphold the Affordable Care Act, it was the wrong approach. She's been dinged on that in the past 24 hours by Democrats. It's something that you can certainly anticipate will come up during her Senate confirmation hearings. I think it's a real core part of their messaging campaign against her at this point. We know that this election matters a great deal. We know that healthcare is at the front of the minds of many voters, so that is an issue that Senate Democrats and down-ballot candidates have really latched on to as they feel it's an effective way to target Judge Barrett through this process.
Amy: One more thing just about her tenure, she's only been on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for a very short time, does she have much of a track record there that can tell us anything about the way she approaches the law or her philosophy?
Gabby: She does. Three years is, yes, it's a short amount of time, but there are other justices on the court right now, Kagan is one of them, who had you know zero court record before she was appointed. It's not necessarily unprecedented to have only three years on the circuit before you're appointed to or nominated for the Supreme Court. She has a judicial record. We have opinions that we can go through and look at, and they will certainly be vetted in the coming days, not just by Democrats who sit on the Judiciary Committee and will use them as they prepare for their lines of questioning, but also by a lot of outside conservative groups that are looking for reassurances that she would vote a certain way or decided to take up cases that would matter to them if she were to get confirmed to the court.
The vetting process that Judge Barrett is about to go through, not only on the left but on the right as well, I think is really important this time around because there are a lot of conservatives that feel basically betrayed by Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the president's other nominees to the Supreme Court. They felt like he let them down in a case this summer dealing with LGBTQ rights. I expect that Judge Barrett, though she yesterday received tons and tons of praise from your socially conservative groups and groups that prioritize deregulation and things like that, that there's going to be a round of vetting just to make sure that she lives up to their expectations.
Amy: What do we know right now about when this process starts and the expectation that there is going to be a final vote before Election Day?
Gabby: It started yesterday, obviously, with the president's announcement. Beginning tomorrow, Judge Barrett will probably be on Capitol Hill, meeting with senators who are interested in getting to know her and getting to talk to her. I expect that that will probably take about a week, which is typical for these types of processes. Then, Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said that by October 12, he hopes to begin her confirmation hearings.
If that timeline ends up working out, we could see a confirmation vote on October 29th. That's the date that's been circulated among Senate Republicans already, which is just, if you think about it, pretty remarkable. That's roughly four or five days before the election. We really are going to be pushing up against the election with this confirmation process.
Amy: I've already seen one Democratic Senator, Richard Blumenthal, from Connecticut, saying he does not want to meet with her. Are we going to see other Democrats who basically say, "You know what, I have no interest in doing this. I think this whole process is a sham"? Are we going to see Democrats talk about maybe boycotting the entire process?
Gabby: Yes, absolutely, and we already have. There was a memo circulated earlier this week by some outside progressive groups that was meant to put pressure on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to get him to use as many delay tactics as he can. One of the things that the Democratic conference has talked about is not doing anything that would legitimize this process because, as you said, they feel like this is a sham, and part of that would mean not meeting with Judge Barrett when she's on Capitol Hill next week. That any one-on-one sit-down meeting with Senate Democrat, especially Senate Democrats who are on the Judiciary Committee, would legitimize the process in some way. I expect that Senator Blumenthal will not be the first or the last Democrat to say that they will decline a one-on-one meeting.
Amy: Even Democrats who sit on the Judiciary Committee may do that?
Gabby: Absolutely. A good one to watch is obviously Senator Harris from California, who happens to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee. She had some tough questions for Judge Barrett back in the 2017 confirmation hearing. If Democrats do decide to participate in these hearings, which also is up in the air at this point, that could be quite a moment for her to stand out as well just before the election.
Amy: The one other thing I want to talk to you about is exactly that, Senator Kamala Harris, who's in the most interesting position of anybody on that committee, being the vice-presidential nominee, also, of course, being United States senator at the same time. Can you talk a little bit about that balance that she may have to hold between being her Senate self and the person that we saw in the Kavanaugh hearings but also being Joe Biden's running mate?
Gabby: Yes, it's a really tough position for her if you think about it because one of the things that we've heard time and time again about Judge Barrett from outside groups that are on the left and from Senate Democrats is that they're worried that her religious beliefs or religious background could potentially interfere with the way that she approaches the bench, the way that she approaches cases, deciding which cases to take, how she might rule on them. That will be a line of questioning that emerges during these confirmation hearings.
We've already seen conservatives, the White House, the Trump administration, describe that as an anti-Catholic campaign. They're really trying to set up this moment to be able to go after Senate Democrats and say, "You guys are being discriminatory against a religious woman. You're creating a religious test." Harris now is going to find herself in a place where she knows that that line of questioning is going to elicit that response from conservatives and she's running on a ticket with a Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, who is himself devoutly Catholic, has made his faith one of the core parts of his campaign message.
I've talked to folks on both the right and the left prior to the announcement yesterday that President Trump was nominating Judge Barrett, and both of them really expect conservatives and the White House to pit Harris against her running mate based on the line of questioning here. I think that's a trap that she's probably going to try to avoid as much as possible, but you can already anticipate that that's the message that we're going to hear from the right as soon as she starts questioning Judge Barrett, if, in fact, Democrats do attend the confirmation hearings.
Amy: Right. Well, Gabby Orr, thank you so much for taking this time to walk us through this process. I really, really appreciate it.
Gabby: Thank you so much for having me.
Amy: Gabby Orr is a White House reporter for POLITICO.
That's all for us today. Our senior producer is Amber Hall. Patricia Yacob is our associate producer. Polly Irungu is our digital editor. David Gebel is our executive assistant. Jay Cowit is our director and sound designer. Debbie Daughtry is our board up. Vince Fairchild is our director and engineer. Our executive producer is Lee Hill. Thanks so much for listening. This is Politics with Amy Walter on The Takeaway.
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