Amy Coney Barrett, a long-term academic, appeals court judge and mother of seven was the hot favorite for the Supreme Court seat.
Donald Trump – who as sitting president gets to select nominees – reportedly once said he was “saving her” for this moment: when elderly Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and a vacancy on the nine-member court arose.
It took President Trump just over a week to fast-track the 48-year-old conservative intellectual into the wings. This is his chance to tip the court make-up even further to the right ahead of the presidential election, when he could lose power.
Amy Coney Barrett’s record on gun rights and immigration cases imply she would be as reliable a vote on the right of the court, as the Notorious RBG was on the left, according to Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University.
Judge Barrett’s vote, alongside a conservative majority, could make the difference for decades ahead, especially on divisive issues such as abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act (the Obama-era health insurance provider).
Her legal opinions and remarks on abortion and gay marriage have made her popular with the religious right, but earned vehement opposition from liberals.
However, as a devout Catholic, Amy Coney Barrett has repeatedly insisted her faith does not compromise her work.
Amy Coney Barrett lives in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband, Jesse, a former federal prosecutor who is now with a private firm. The couple have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti. She is the oldest of seven children herself.
Known for her sharp intellect, Amy Coney Barrett studied at the University of Notre Dame’s Law School, graduating first in her class, and was a clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, who, in her words, was the “staunchest conservative” on the SCOTUS at the time.
Like her mentor Scalia, Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, which is a belief that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the Constitution as the authors intended when they were written.
Many liberals oppose that strict approach, saying there must be scope for moving with the times.
Amy Coney Barrett has spent much of her career as a professor at her alma mater, Notre Dame, where she was voted professor of the year multiple times.
She was selected by President Trump to serve as a federal appeals court judge in 2017, sitting on the Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago. She regularly commutes to the court from her home – more than an hour and half away.
Amy Coney Barett’s confirmation hearing for the appeals court seat featured a now-infamous encounter with Senator Dianne Feinstein, who voiced concerns about how her faith could affect her thinking on the law. Defiant Catholics adopted the phrase as a tongue-in-cheek slogan on mugs.
Judge Barrett has defended herself on multiple occasions.
“I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge,” she once said.
LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign has voiced strong opposition to Barrett’s confirmation, declaring her ”an absolute threat to LGBTQ rights”.
The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, declined comment on Judge Barrett specifically, but said appointing any new conservative Supreme Court justice would “be devastating for sexual and reproductive health and rights”.
To secure the position on the Supreme Court – a lifelong job – Amy Coney Barrett will still have to pass a grueling confirmation hearing, where Democratic senators are likely to take a tough line, bringing up many of their voters’ concerns.
In recent years, the Supreme Court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, allowed for President Trump’s travel ban on mainly Muslim countries to be put in place, and delayed the US plan to cut carbon emissions.
After graduating from Notre Dame University Law School in Indiana, Amy Coney Barrett, 48, clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In 2017, she was nominated by President Trump to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Amy Coney Barrett is described as a devout Catholic who, according to a 2013 magazine article, said that “life begins at conception”. This makes her a favorite among religious conservatives keen to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
LGBT groups have criticized her membership of a conservative Catholic group, People of Praise, whose network of schools have guidelines stating a belief that sexual relations should only happen between heterosexual married couples.
Judge Barrett has ruled in favor of President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies and expressed views in favor of expansive gun rights.
Conservatives hope Judge Barrett will rule against the Affordable Care Act – a health insurance scheme introduced by President Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage if the court overturns the legislation, also known as Obamacare.
Following September 26 announcement, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned fellow senators that voting to confirm Judge Barrett could spell the end of Obamacare.
He said: “A vote by any senator for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for millions of Americans.”
On September 26, Judge Barrett said her rulings as a Supreme Court justice would be based only on the law.
“Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy view they might hold,” she added.
The White House has begun contacting Republican Senate offices to schedule meetings with the nominee, sources told CBS.
Hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee – the panel tasked with vetting nominees – are scheduled to begin on October 12, and will last three to four days, committee chairman Lindsey Graham told Fox News late on September 26.
Afterwards committee members will vote on whether to send the nomination to the full Senate. If they do, all 100 senators will vote to confirm or reject her.
Republicans hold a slim majority of 53 senators, but they already seem to have the 51 votes needed to get Judge Barrett confirmed.
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