President Donald Trump is planning to select federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett, a favourite among social conservatives, to fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court created by the demise of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The New York Times reported.
The US President is expected to announce his decision on Saturday, a week after Ginsburg’s death at the age of 87. His decision is likely to spark bitter disagreements as Trump is pushing to confirm his nominee before the presidential election, slated to take place on November 3.
If confirmed, Barrett will become the fifth woman to serve on the US’ highest court, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority in the nine-justice bench.
But first, who is Amy Coney Barrett?
Amy Coney Barrett was one among the three front-runners Trump had shortlisted to replace Ginsburg in the US Supreme Court. Appeals court judges Barbara Lagoa and Amul Thapar were also reportedly considered by the US President and his advisers.
She was previously nominated by President Trump to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, where she was confirmed by the Senate in a 55-43 vote in October 2017.
The 48-year-old judge identifies as a devout catholic and has a clear judicial record of being against abortion access, which has made her popular among religious conservatives pushing to overturn the 1973 decision that legalised abortions across the United States.
However, during her confirmation hearing in 2017, she vowed to never let her personal views get in the way of her duties as a judge. “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am,” she had said. “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.”
In the past, she has voted in favour of several of President Trump’s extreme immigration policies and has also indicated her support for expansive gun rights. Last year, Barrett wrote a ruling that made it simpler for male college students accused of sexual harassment to challenge how their cases are handled on campus.
Barrett was previously on Trump’s list of potential nominees in 2018, when he was deciding who would replace retired justice Anthony Kennedy on the US Supreme Court. But he ultimately decided to nominate Brett Kavanaugh. According to an Axios report published last year, Trump had said, “I’m saving her (Barrett) for Ginsburg.”
After graduating from Notre Dame Law School in Indiana, Barrett served as a clerk under late justice Antonin Scalia. She later joined the law faculty at her alma mater, where she was a member of an anti-abortion group called ‘Faculty for Life’.
Originally from New Orleans, Barrett is married to Jesse M Barrett — a former federal prosecutor in South Bend, Indiana — with whom she has seven children.
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Is Judge Barrett likely to be confirmed?
Given that Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber, there appears to be no hurdles standing between Judge Barrett and Senate confirmation. Only two Republican senators — Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine — have aired their reservations about moving forward with the process before the upcoming presidential election, Reuters reported.
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The White House has reportedly already started contacting Republican Senate offices to schedule meetings with Trump’s nominee over the next week, sources confirmed to CBS. The nominee will be made to appear before a Senate Judiciary Committee, comprising 22 Republicans and Democrats.
After around three to five days of hearings, the committee members will vote on whether the nomination should be sent to the full Senate. If they approve the nominee, then all 100 senators finally vote to confirm or reject judge Barrett.
President Trump has been pushing to replace the ninth judge on the Supreme Court before the election. In an interview this week, he insisted that the Supreme Court would be called upon to rule on this year’s poll results, and thus, a conservative ninth justice was essential. “We need nine justices. You need that,” he told reporters on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.
During his campaign trail, too, Trump had promised to nominate more conservative judges and Barrett’s potential appointment will be a fulfilment of that vow.
Why is this nomination controversial?
Democrats have accused their Republican counterparts of hypocrisy for pushing to nominate a ninth Supreme Court justice during an election year. Their objections are in light of the fact that the Republicans in the Senate refused to consider former US President Barack Obama’s nominee for the court, Merrick Garland, after Justice Scalia passed away in 2016.
Garland’s nomination had come 237 days before the election that year and was successfully blocked by the Republicans in the Senate. They argued that the decision should not be made during an election year.
Now, with a little over a month to go before the 2020 election, the Republicans seem to have reversed their position on the issue. The Democratic party’s presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden has said that Trump’s efforts to appoint a justice at this time were an “abuse of power”, BBC reported.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted soon after Ginsburg’s death, 62 per cent of US adults thought the nominee should be selected by the winner of the election, while 23 per cent disagreed.
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