US President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faced some tough questions on everything from Obamacare to her stance on abortion from senators on the second day of her Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.
Barrett, a conservative federal judge, said she is not hostile to the Obamacare law, as Democrats have suggested, but declined to specify whether she believes landmark rulings legalizing abortion and gay marriage were properly decided.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, asked her for her opinions on abortion and LGBTQ rights. But Judge Barrett said it would be wrong as a sitting judge “to make my opinion about precedents.”
“I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law,” she said, stating that she had “no agenda to try to overrule” other decisions.
Abortion rights advocates have expressed concern that Barrett would vote to overturn the 1973 ruling called Roe v Wade that legalized abortion nationwide. Trump has said he would appoint “pro-life” justices who would overturn a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
Barrett also declined to say whether she would consider stepping aside from an Obamacare case in which President Donald Trump and Republican-led states are seeking to invalidate the law formally called the Affordable Care Act. She insisted she made no promised to anyone, including President Trump, that she would vote to repeal Obamacare.
“It would be a gross violation of judicial independence for me to make any such commitment or for me to be asked about that case and how I would rule,” Barrett said.
The Affordable Care Act is former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement and has enabled millions of Americans to obtain medical coverage. Democrats have blasted Trump for trying to kill Obamacare amid a pandemic.
Among the issues she declined to weigh in on was the upcoming election. Barrett said she could not give an opinion on whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases, but insisted she “would not be used as a pawn” during the election. Democrats have questioned her impartiality given her nomination to the bench by Trump.
“But I haven’t even written anything that I would think anybody could reasonably say, oh this is how she might resolve an election dispute,” she said. “And I would consider it, let’s see, I certainly hope that all members of the committee have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people.”
The mood shifted to a more confrontational tone on the second day of the hearing, with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, telling the nominee she “would be the polar opposite of Justice Ginsburg,” whose vacant seat Barrett would be filling.
Republicans want the confirmation ahead of the presidential election on 3 November. It would give the nine-member court a 6-3 conservative majority, altering the ideological balance of the court for decades to come.
Barrett’s confirmation hearings last four days.