Connect with us

Politics

Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett for SCOTUS. Here’s What You Need to Know

Published

on

  • President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he is nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.
  • If confirmed, Barrett would likely signal a decades-long conservative shift.
  • Many have now scrutinized her previous writings and opinions on cases involving abortion, Obamacare, LGBTQ+ rights, and more.
  • Some have also questioned if her Catholic faith will play a role in her interpretation of the Constitution, which she has denied.
  • Other’s still have commended Trump for the selection and condemned criticisms of Barrett as attacks on freedom of religion.

Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

After weeks of swirling rumors, President Donald Trump officially announced on Saturday that he had selected Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett is a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, a role she has held since she was appointed by Trump in 2017 after working as a law professor at Notre Dame for several years.

She was on the shortlist to be a Supreme Court Justice nominee back in 2018 for the seat that was eventually filled by Brett Kavanaugh. If appointed this time around, she will become the youngest member of the court at 48-years-old. 

That is notable because Supreme Court seats are lifetime appointments, and Trump’s two other appointees — Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — are both in their 50s, meaning that all three Trump-appointed justices could potentially serve for decades. Her appointment would firmly lead to a more conservative court, which would have a six-person majority. 

Barrett’s confirmation to the court would also mean that six of the nine justices are Catholic, a fact that is significant because Barrett has received a good deal of scrutiny over public comments she has made about Catholicism and the law in the past.

Religious Concerns

During her confirmation hearing to be a federal judge in 2017, many Democrats worried her religious beliefs would cloud her judgments. However, when pressed on the topic, Barrett swore that would not be the case.

“If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am,” she told Senators at the time. “Although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

That response did not dissuade all senators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.).

“I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein told Barrett. “And that’s of concern.”

Those remarks, which now compose a viral clip, resulted in Feinstein and other Democrats receiving criticism for attacking Barretts faith and being biased, thus propelling her to be a major rallying flag for the religious right.

Now, with her nomination to the Supreme Court, both the concerns regarding her religion are resurfacing, as are the refrands that those concerns are simply anti-religious attacks. During the formal announcement of her nomination, both President Trump and Barrett herself addressed those concerns.

“She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Trump said. “Amy Coney Barrett will decide cases based on the text of the Constitution as written.”

“No matter the issue, no matter the case before her, I am supremely confident that Judge Barrett will issue rulings based solely upon a fair reading of the law.”

Barrett, for her part, also echoed those remarks, addressing her “fellow Americans,” to tell them that Trump “nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and that institution belongs to all of us.”

“If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle, and certainly not for my own sake,” she continued. “I would assume this role to serve you.” 

Barrett also further emphasized that point while describing her personal judicial philosophy, which she said was the same as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who she clerked for and described as her mentor.

“His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written,” she said. “Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.” 

Whether or not Barrett would follow closely in Scalia’s footsteps is important to an ongoing debate that has popped up with the news of her nomination. On one side, many people and media outlets say that while Barrett will certainly shift the court, she is ideologically in-line with the other conservative judges.

But on the other side, plenty of others — specifically on social media — have said that her past decisions, public statements, and publications show she is an extremist and a religious fundamentalist.

Here’s a deeper look at Barrett’s record, where she stands on key issues, and how that could affect future Supreme Court decisions. 

Abortion

Let’s start with what Barrett’s nomination means for abortion rights because that has easily been the most talked-about and is likely to be a major focus at her confirmation hearings and throughout the nomination process.

Barrett has been quite public about her personal opposition to abortion in both academic and judicial writings. She has explicitly said that abortion is “always immoral,” and her nomination has been widely supported by anti-abortion groups.

Aside from personal views, in her role as a federal judge, she has overseen three cases regarding laws restricting abortions in her home state of Indiana. In all three cases, she expressed concerns over earlier rulings that had ended those restrictions, and twice she joined dissenting opinions that would have struck down lower court rulings and upheld abortion restrictions.

However, both her personal beliefs and past rulings don’t necessarily mean she would strike down Roe v. Wade. While Trump has vowed to appoint justices ready to overrule the 1973 decision that established the Constitution recognizes a right to abortion, Barrett has not yet said publicly how she would rule on abortion if confirmed to the Supreme Court. 

This is where things get a little messy. Barrett has in the past called Roe an “erroneous decision” and claimed it “ignited a national controversy” by deciding the issue via the Supreme Court rather than leaving it up to the states. 

At the same time, she has also repeatedly said she does not think SCOTUS would overturn the ruling.

“I don’t think the core case, Roe’s core holding that women have a right to an abortion, I don’t think that would change,” she stated speaking at an appearance in 2016. “But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that will change.”

That last point is important because while many experts believe it is unlikely that SCOTUS will wholesale overturn Roe anytime soon, what is likely is that the court will make decisions on cases that will slowly chip away at the ruling instead.

However, others have said with the appointment of another conservative to replace Ginsburg, the conservative justices could have enough votes to go after abortion directly. If that were to be the case, it is unclear how Barrett would proceed here as well.

A fact that is significant because Barrett has also published controversial views regarding the judicial principle that justices should respect the past court precedents, and made it clear that she would be open to reversing a Supreme Court precedent if she believed it went against the Constitution.

Affordable Care Act

The second highly talked-about effect Barrett could have on the court is in regards to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — or Obamacare. Her views here are exceptionally important because a week after Election Day, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the latest challenge to the ACA. 

Barrett, for her part, has publicly criticized the Supreme Court decision that upheld Obamacare as constitutional repeatedly. In a 2017 article she wrote, she quoted her mentor Scalia’s dissension with the law by saying it should be called “SCOUTScare.”

In the article, Barrett argued for an originalist reading of the Constitution — interpreting the Constitution how it was originally written and with the same understanding the authors had when they wrote it. Under that view, she argued, the Supreme Court would not allow for Obamacare.

She also criticized Chief Justice Roberts’ stance on Obamacare, and said that he considered too many factors outside of the Constitution when considering Obamacare’s constitutionality. Her originalist interpretation of the Constitution lends fuel to Democrats claims that she could upend the Affordable Care Act.

Adding to concerns is her stance about Obamacare forcing employers to offer birth control, regardless of their religious preferences. In 2012, she allegedly signed a petition against this provision and is quoted by Newsweek as saying at the time: “This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.”

Other Important Rulings and Remarks

Abortion and the ACA are the two biggest talking points when it comes to Barrett, but those who believe she is an extremist have also noted her record on other hot button issues in the country.

For example, many have pointed to her stance on LGBTQ+ rights. According to reports, in 2015, Barrett signed a letter addressed to Catholic bishops that detailed her personal beliefs. It also included a statement about “marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”

Regarding marriage, some also cited a lecture she gave in 2016 where she defended Supreme Court justices who argued against making gay marriage legal. In a separate speech, she argued that Title IX does not apply to transgender individuals.

A lot of people also pointed to other controversial decisions she has made in her three years as a federal judge, like how she refused to rehear a racial segregation case in 2017, as well as a ruling she made in 2019 that made it easier for men accused of sexual assaults on college campuses to challenge the proceedings against them.

Some also condemned her stance on immigration. In one case, she oversaw, Barrett argued that the U.S. has a right to block people it deems likely to become dependent on public assistance — even if they’ve never used it in the past.

She has also repeatedly refused to review cases brought by immigrants who claim they’ve been wrongfully denied humanitarian protections or other immigration benefits.

What Next?

Of course, on the other side, Republicans have widely applauded Barrett’s nomination, including from key leaders, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Trump “could not have made a better decision.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham — who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is in charge of the nomination process — also called her an “outstanding” pick.

As for what happens next, Barrett will meet with Senators for the next two weeks — a timeline that Graham cut significantly short. Normally lawmakers are given around six weeks to meet with and vet a SCOTUS nominee, but Republicans have argued that the quick turnaround is okay because Barrett was already vetted by the Senate in 2017 for a Supreme Court seat. 

After meeting with Senators, Graham has scheduled four consecutive days of confirmation hearings starting Oct. 12, with a full committee vote set for Oct. 22. Graham’s intentions here are clear: he hopes to have a full floor vote before the election. 

Notably, McConnell has not yet committed to a pre-election vote, but regardless, right now, it seems almost certain he will have enough votes. Only two Republicans — Senators Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) — have said they oppose filling the seat before the election.

However, even without them, the Republicans still have a clear path to a 51-47 majority vote. Still, even with the vote all but locked, everyone expects her confirmation process to be a deeply divisive, partisan battle.

This is by far the closest a confirmation fight has played out to an election in American history, and many Democrats have repeatedly condemned Republicans for trying to push through a nominee so fast — especially when Trump has said he expects the election results to end up in the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, as well as anyone who opposes Barrett’s nomination, there is really not much they can do. Regardless of what happens, this firmly places the nomination as a central issue in the election — and not just for Trump, but for the Senators too.

Trump and Republicans are hoping that the prospect of conservatives holding a 6-3 majority will energize conservative voters ahead of the election, but that could also go the other way: Republican’s trying to jam through a nomination could mobilize more liberal voters too.

Several recent polls have shown that a majority of voters want whoever wins in November to choose the SCOTUS nominee, so it is possible that moving too fast could backfire. 

“For many Republican senators up for re-election this year, the ideal situation might be to begin the confirmation process quickly, injecting it into the political bloodstream and energizing conservative voters, but waiting until after Election Day — when vulnerable incumbents no longer have to worry about being cast out by angry independent and liberal voters — to hold a confirmation vote,” The New York Times explained.

There are several key, incredibly close, Senate races happening in November, and political analysts say that control of the chamber is up for grabs. At the same time, even if Republicans lose the Senate, they could still approve Barrett in the time after the election and before the new session in January.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

Politics

Campaign Season Gets Rolling This Month With Primaries in 13 States

Published

on

Several of the contests taking place this month will serve as important tests for Trump-backed candidates and how much power the former president still has over the GOP.


May Primaries Start With Key Race in Ohio

The 2022 midterm season is officially heating up this month with 13 states heading to the polls.

Voters in Indiana and Ohio will kick off the busy month on Tuesday with several highly anticipated races, including one closely watched contest for the seat being vacated by long-time Senator Rob Portman (R-Oh.)

The fight for Portman’s seat has been a heated one: candidates have spent tens of millions of dollars, held numerous debates and forums, and at one point, two of them even got into a physical confrontation. 

The main reason there are so many eyes on this race is because it will prove to be a key test for former President Donald Trump and the influence he has over the party. While Portman has generally been moderate and, at times, more readily critical of Trump than many others in his party, the Republican primary campaign has basically been a fight to see who is the most in line with Trump.

According to FiveThirtyEight, all but one of the seven Republican senate candidates embraced the former president’s election fraud lies as they fought for his coveted endorsement in a state he won by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.

Trump, for his part, ultimately ended up endorsing Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in a move that surprised many, because Vance had previously been vocally opposed to the former leader and his competitors had spent months running ads noting that fact.

However, the fight for Trump’s backing appears to have been worth it. Last week, a Fox News poll found that support for Vance has surged by double-digits since Trump’s endorsement, making him the front-runner.

Still, as FiveThirtyEight reports, “other factions of the party haven’t given up the fight either — which means the primary will be a direct test of how much clout Trump has when other Republican elites dare to defy him.” 

Meanwhile, there are also concerns regarding the ongoing legal battle over Ohio’s congressional map and the confusion that has caused for the state’s election calendar. For weeks, it was widely believed the state’s primaries would be pushed back after the Ohio Supreme Court ordered GOP lawmakers to redraw their map.

The map had been gerrymandered to give Republicans 12 out of the 15 congressional seats in the state even though they had only won around 55% of the popular vote. Ohio voters also previously passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.

The election, however, is still going forward anyway, even as early voting was down a whopping 40% from the last election, and the legislative races will not be on the ballot Tuesday, meaning there will have to be a second primary, which will likely drive down turnout even more.

Other Major Races This Month

There are also other notable contests scheduled for later this month. On May 17, there will be two additional races for seats vacated by Republican senators in North Carolina and Pennsylvania that will serve as important indicators of the former president’s sway over the party.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, the main Trump test focuses on two statewide races for the positions currently held by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). The two infamously angered Trump after they refused to help him overturn the election, and as a result, many are watching to see if the former president’s full-fledged pressure campaign against them will work.

In Georgia and other battlegrounds voting this month, Democrats are also hoping they can make inroads — particularly in Pennsylvania. But recent polls have not painted a good picture for the party. Last week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 47% of voters said they were more likely to vote for the Republican in their district, while just 44% said they would back Democrats. 

The poll marked the first time in eight years that a Marist survey found the GOP with an advantage for congressional ballot tests. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (FiveThirtyEight) (PennLive)

Continue Reading

Politics

New York’s Highest Court Strikes Down Democrat-Gerrymandered Map

Published

on

The move represents a major blow to Democrats, who stood to gain as many as three seats in Congress if their map had been accepted.


Appeals Court Ruling

The New York State Court of Appeals struck down a congressional map drawn by the state’s Democrats Wednesday, dealing the party a major blow.

In the decision, the state’s highest court agreed with Republicans who had argued that the map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. The justices called the map “substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.”

The court also condemned the Democrats for ignoring a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that aimed to limit political influence in redistricting, which included the creation of an independent entity to draw maps that the legislature would then vote on. However, the commission created to prevent partisan gerrymandering was unable to decide on a map because of its own partisan stalemate. As a result, Democrats in the legislature took it upon themselves to draw a final map.

But the version that the legislature passed and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law re-drew lines so that Democrats could have gained as many as three new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Such gains would be highly significant in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are expected to make substantial gains and may very well take back the House. Unsurprisingly, Republicans sued, and a lower court struck down the map.

In their order, the Appeals Court justices took away the legislature’s ability to make the map and instead delegated that power to a court-appointed “neutral expert.” 

While the judges did say there was enough time to finish the map before the primary elections in June, they also added that the Congressional contests would likely need to be moved to August. Races for governor and other statewide officials, however, would stay the same.

Broader Trends

The Appeals Court ruling is unique in that it targets Democrats, but it also comes as part of the broader trend of state courts cracking down on gerrymandering — though most other instances have stemmed from GOP-drawn maps.

In just the first four months of 2022, state courts in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland have all struck down redistricting plans crafted by lawmakers.

Unlike the New York ruling, some of those other courts have implied that they will still allow those maps to be used in the 2022 elections. Such a decision would very likely disadvantage Democrats even more.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

Continue Reading

Politics

McCarthy Warned Far-Right Lawmakers Could Incite Violence After Jan. 6 in New Audio of Leaked Call

Published

on

The conversations represent a marked difference from the public efforts of McCarthy and other Republican leaders to downplay their members actions.


Leaked Audio

Four days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) expressed concern about far-right Republicans inciting violence and openly voiced support for censoring them on Twitter, according to audio published by The New York Times on Tuesday.

The recordings, which come from a call among party leaders and aides on Jan. 10, are by far the clearest evidence top Republicans acknowledged that their members played a role in stoking violence before the insurrection and threatened to do so after.

They also emphasize the vast difference between what top Republicans, especially McCarthy, said behind closed doors, and how they downplayed and ignored the actions of their members in public. 

One of the most notable elements of these recordings is that McCarthy and the others explicitly identified several individuals by name. They focused mainly on Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) and Mo Brooks (R-Al.) as the primary offenders.

In the audio, McCarthy can be heard flagging Gaetz right off the bat.

“Tension is too high. The country is too crazy,” he added. “I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.” 

Specifically, McCarthy and the others talked about how Gaetz had gone on TV to attack multiple Republicans for being unsupportive of former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6. They particularly expressed concern over his targeting of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who was a member of the leadership team and had already been facing threats.

Others on the call also noted that Brooks had spoken at the rally before the insurrection, where he made incendiary remarks that many have viewed as direct calls to violence. McCarthy said the public comments from his members “have to stop,” adding he would call Gaetz and have others do the same to tell him that this “is serious shit” and “to cut this out.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking House Republican, asserted at one point that Gaetz’s actions were “potentially illegal.” 

“Well, he’s putting people in jeopardy, and he doesn’t need to be doing this,” McCarthy responded. “We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”

Republicans on the call also mentioned incendiary remarks from other members, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.), Barry Moore (R-Al.), and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.). Cheney pointed to Boebert as a security risk, noting she had tweeted out incredibly sensitive information about the movements of top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) during the attack on the Capitol.

“Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that shit,” McCarthy added later. “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”

McCarthy in Hot Water

The newly published recordings also come just days after The Times reported that McCarthy had told members on a call after the insurrection that he would urge Trump to resign.

McCarthy initially called the reporting “totally false and wrong,” but shortly after his denial, The Times received permission from their source to publish audio where he can be heard saying precisely that.

McCarthy, for his part, has tried to spin the situation, claiming that his remarks were still true because he never actually followed through on the plan to call Trump. 

Still, the situation prompted widespread backlash from the far-right faction of the Republican party. 

Multiple people expressed hesitancy about their support for McCarthy as Speaker of the House if Republicans take control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Some said they could not trust him.

Speaking on his show Tuesday, Foxs News host Tucker Carlson called McCarthy “a puppet of the Democratic Party.”

Gaetz also responded with ire, tweeting out a statement in which he referred to the call as “sniveling” and said of McCarthy and Scalise: “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”

Other members mentioned in the call, however, appeared to brush it off. In a statement to Axios, Moore claimed that the story was engineered by “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only), and that “Republicans will be more united than ever after taking back the House this November.”

It currently remains unclear whether these revelations with pose any long-term threat to McCarthy, but if Trump is any indication of the far-right party line, the House leader may be in the clear.

After The Times published the audio of McCarthy saying Trump should resign, the former president told The Wall Street Journal that the relationship between the two men was untroubled.

“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” he added. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (The Washington Post)

Continue Reading