September 26, 2020

Duckworth to vote ‘no’ on Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination while Durbin says he doesn’t know if she’s qualified

Source: Chicago Tribune


Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth on Saturday said she would vote against Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, while Sen. Dick Durbin said he didn’t know if she was qualified.

In a statement as President Donald Trump announced the South Bend, Indiana, judge’s nomination during a White House Rose Garden ceremony, Duckworth lashed out at majority Senate Republicans for pushing Barrett’s nomination so close to the election.

“Instead of addressing the many life-and-death issues facing working families during COVID-19, Trump and the Senate Republicans are focused on jamming through this nomination in a transparent grab for power so they can achieve their long-sought goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act and ripping away health care from millions ——including every COVID-19 survivor who now has a preexisting condition,” said Duckworth, who like Durbin voted against Barrett’s 2017 nomination.

“I voted against confirming Amy Coney Barrett to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit because she failed to demonstrate the capability or willingness to serve as an impartial, fair and independent jurist. Judge Barrett was not fit to be a circuit judge in 2017 and she is the wrong choice for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court today. Once again, she will not have my support,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth contended that if Republicans insisted on confirming Barrett, the Supreme Court “could roll back women’s reproductive rights, greenlight more dark money in politics, jeopardize voting rights and civil rights for Black and brown communities and knock down any progress on climate action.”

Durbin, the state’s senior senator, also cited concerns about the fate of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, and Republicans moving quickly through the confirmation process, though he was more measured in his response during an interview with CNN prior to Trump formalizing Barrett’s nomination.

Still, Durbin, the No. 2 ranking Democrat in the Senate and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he would seek to meet with the nominee and would attend hearings despite the expedited process pushed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“Considering the fact that this Supreme Court nominee may serve on the court for 30 years, it is nothing short of outrageous that they want to approve her in fewer than 30 days,” Durbin said. He again contended McConnell and majority Republicans were being hypocritical after blocking President Barack Obama’s pick of Merrick Garland to the court citing the proximity of the presidential election in 2016.

Asked directly by CNN host Michael Smerconish if Barrett was qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court, Durbin said, “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Durbin cited two issues surrounding the court and the nomination — the fate of the Affordable Care Act, which is subject to oral arguments just a week after the election, as well as Trump saying he wants a full, nine-member court in place before the election in case there are legal challenges to the outcome.

“We have with Amy Coney Barrett a pronouncement that earlier decisions by the Supreme Court saving the Affordable Care Act were wrong,” Durbin said. He noted her past criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts' decision to join the Democratic minority to keep Obamacare, citing the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance as a part of Congress' taxation powers.

But Durbin also cited Trump’s refusal to say that he would abide by the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election as another concern.

“This president has raised a constitutional issue about whether he is going to abide by the decision of the American people in this election. I can’t think of anything more fundamental and constitutional. Then he went further and said and that’s why I need to fill the Supreme Court before the election,” Durbin said.

“When you look at those statements, they are nothing short of amazing, startling, for a president to say that. I want to know what Amy Coney Barrett has to say about that. Is she ready to be on the court? I need some answers,” Illinois' senior senator said.

Durbin and Duckworth voted against Barrett’s nomination to the appeals court both on the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. She was confirmed by the Senate on a 55-43 vote in October 2017.

Durbin’s previous opposition to Barrett was due to her lack of judicial or courtroom experience as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. He also questioned an academic writing which raised the issue of whether a Catholic judge should recuse themselves from capital punishment cases due to their faith. Barrett, a staunch Catholic, said then that her faith would not play a role in her judicial decisions.

Durbin, himself a Catholic, restated his concerns Saturday about whether she would let her faith influence her decisions.

“That is what you want to hear: that whatever your religious belief whether you have one or not, it’s not going to influence your opinion. What you asked me is it still a concern. Of course,” he said.

“She’s kind of pushed against this by writings that she published years and years ago which questioned whether people of a certain religious faith could do things on the bench that might violate their conscience,” he said.

Noting the criticism he and other committee members faced for asking her about her writings, Durbin said, “It really has created a muddle here when it comes to what is the appropriate line of questioning. I’m going to be extremely careful.”

Despite political controversy over the timing of the nomination, Durbin said he would meet with Barrett as a “courtesy,” saying “that is not only respectful but it’s important.”

As for talk that some Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee may boycott hearings, Durbin said that speaking for himself, “This senator is going to be at the hearing. I have questions I want answered by a person who wants to serve on the Supreme Court and follow Ruth Bader Ginsburg."