Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed by the U. S. Senate as the newest Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Her confirmation is historic in a number of ways. It was a quick process, to be sure, but not anything close to the fastest confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice. There have been six Justices to the Supreme Court nominated by five different presidents who were confirmed on the same day they were nominated. The most recent of these was James F. Byrnes, who was nominated by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 12, 1941 and confirmed by a voice vote. Barrett’s confirmation isn’t even the fastest confirmation in recent history. Chief Justice John Roberts was confirmed in 23 days in 2005.
Barrett’s confirmation was by a vote of 52-48, essentially along party lines with the one exception of Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted against Barrett, she says, for the purpose of consistency. Certainly this alludes to the Republican-controlled Senate refusing to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland by President Obama in 2016, insisting that it was too close to the presidential election and that the American voters should have a voice in who is nominated to the Supreme Court. Collins has a legitimate point here. The Republicans certainly are hypocritical in making that claim for Garland but then ignoring it for Barrett. At the same time, anyone who thinks the Democrats wouldn’t have done the exact same thing is, in my mind, more motivated by partisan bias than a realistic political perspective.
This is the first time in over 150 years that a Supreme Court nominee was voted into office with no support from the minority party. This sadly reflects the politicization of the Supreme Court. The nomination and confirmation process for Barrett was so controversial and divisive that most of the energy of the process was dedicated to the Democrat’s opposition to Trump and feelings of having been burned by the Garland situation so that little attention was given to Barrett’s qualifications, which are many and largely undisputed. In any past era, she likely would have received a unanimous vote for confirmation. Unfortunately, the days of 98-0 confirmation votes, such as the one for Justice Antonin Scalia in 1986, or of 96-3 for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 , are long gone. The future does not bode well that future nominations will be anything less political than Barrett’s confirmation process. Many of the Democrat Senators used most of their time for questioning Barrett making anti-Trump speeches, and those questions asked of her asked, inappropriately, that she speak to how she might rule on particular matters that might come before the Court. Smartly, she quoted Ginsburg who insisted that nominees to the Court should offer no previews on how they might rule, as doing so would jeopardize the justice system and be a violation of judicial ethics.
Happily, opposition to Barrett’s Catholic faith was much more mooted this go-around, as compared to her nomination to the Seventh Circuit Court in 2017. At that time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) infamously noted that Barrett’s Catholicism was a profound influence on her and that the fact that “the dogma lives loudly within you” raised concerns about her ability to be impartial. None of the Senators on either side of the aisle, so far as I know, alluded to her Catholic faith during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. There was some open opposition to her Catholicism in the press and some silly “handmaids” protests outside the Court, but nothing that seemed influential on the process. The National Catholic Reporter, a nominally Catholic newspaper with, frankly, little regard for Church teaching on anything, published an editorial that, after stating their opposition to Barrett’s confirmation because it would mean too many Catholics on the Court, insisted that there should be no religious litmus test for judicial nominees! Actually, the piece was pretty sexist, referencing Barrett’s “adoring” look toward Trump and accusing her of being a moral relativist dressed in originalist “drag”. Yeah, try to convince me they would use that language for a male nominee. Also, trying to hide their opposition to Barrett behind an accusation of her being a moral relativist is a real hoot coming from the National Catholic Reporter.
Democrats have ominously threatened that there will be consequences for Barrett’s being confirmed. Many are talking openly about packing the Supreme Court if the Democrats win the Senate. This would be a mistake. Democrats have made mistakes in the past when they held the majority, seemingly on the assumption that they would always hold the majority. If the Democrats do win the Senate and decide to pack the Court by adding Justices more attuned to their political views, what’s to stop the Republicans from doing the same when they are next in the majority? Will we have a Supreme Court with 20, 30, 40, 50 Justices? Such would destroy the credibility of the Court and turn it into nothing other than a political tool for the Congressional majority and no longer a true third branch of government.
We will have to see what November 3rd brings. We will have to see how Justice Barrett rules on cases. We will have to see if the Democrats make good on their threats when they are next the Senate majority, whether after this election or others. Hopefully, good sense and God’s grace will preserve our political traditions and take this great country into a happy future.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.