WASHINGTON - U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is set to tell senators at her confirmation hearing starting Monday that courts “should not try” to make policy and should leave that to American presidents and Congress.
In an advance release of her opening statement, Barrett lays out a strict interpretation of the high court’s role, saying it is "not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”
Instead, she says, “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”
The 48-year-old, staunch conservative, President Donald Trump’s third nominee to the nine-member court, is facing four days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
The Republican-controlled Senate, over vocal opposition from Democrats, is pushing to confirm her lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court by the end of October, just days before Trump faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election for a new four-year White House term.
Republicans say they have the voted to confirm Barrett. If so, it would be one of the shortest approval processes on record and the closest ever to a presidential election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to see Barrett confirmed before the election while his party still holds the Senate and the White House, something that could change with the election.
Democrats oppose Barrett's nomination to the court for several reasons, including the future of the Affordable Care Act, the health care law passed under former President Barack Obama that Trump wants to repeal.
“President Trump has been trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act for four years. Republicans have been trying to end it for a decade,” Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said in a statement. “She has a written track record of disagreeing with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.”
Democrats also worry about precedent, or deference to past court decisions. Barrett has listed rulings she considers above reversal. However, Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage are not among those rulings
Millions of people have already cast early ballots, and Democrats say the nomination should be made by the new president early next year after either Trump or Biden is inaugurated in January.
Republicans blocked hearings for Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, eight months ahead of the 2016 presidential election, but have pushed ahead with Barrett’s nomination much closer to a national vote.
Barrett’s confirmation would cement a 6-3 conservative ideological edge on the court that could shape American law for decades on such crucial issues as health care, abortion and gay rights, immigration and gun restrictions. She would replace a liberal jurist, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Referring to Ginsburg in her statement, Barrett says, “No one will ever take her place.”
But Barrett, now a federal appellate court judge and law professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, held out the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a strict constitutionalist, as her mentor, a jurist who adhered to the words in the U.S. Constitution when it was adopted.
Barrett says Scalia was "devoted to his family, resolute in his beliefs, and fearless of criticism."
A devoted Catholic, Barrett speaks extensively of her family, a husband and seven children, in the statement and says she will never let the law define her identity.
Her remarks are expected to come late Monday after opening statements by senators on the Judiciary Committee, followed by two days of lawmakers questioning Barrett and another day for testimony by advocates and opponents of her nomination.