09.26.20

Comment On President Trump's Nomination Of Judge Amy Coney Barrett To The U.S. Supreme Court

Yesterday, I stood by Justice Ginsburg as she lay in state at the U.S. Capitol, honoring her life, her legacy, and our friendship.  Today, barely a week after she passed, President Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat on the Supreme Court.  Justice Ginsburg hasn’t even been laid to rest yet.

There is no mystery surrounding the Republicans’ mad rush to fill this vacancy before an election that is just 38 days away.  Just one week later the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Republican-led lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.  Republicans believe this nominee will accomplish from behind the bench what they failed to accomplish for years in the halls of Congress: strip healthcare and protections for preexisting conditions from millions of Americans, all in the middle of a pandemic.  Republicans also believe Judge Barrett will be the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, turning back the clock nearly a half century on women’s autonomy over their bodies and their lives. 

And President Trump — who instinctively believes that all branches of government exist simply to serve his will — expects that his nominee will help deliver him four more years in the White House when he inevitably raises his baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud following the election.

With this vacancy, Republicans see the potential for a wholly partisan Court — an extension of their raw political power.  This is why they have gone back on their word, contradicting and twisting every argument they made in 2016 about the American people needing a voice during an election year vacancy.  This is why Republicans are willing to ignore the clear majority of Americans who today believe the next president should fill this vacancy.  But the American people deserve better than this.

I will scrutinize Judge Barrett’s nomination as I have the 19 others over my 46 years in the Senate with an exhaustive examination of her record.  Yet a dark cloud looms over this nomination, as President Trump and Senate Republicans are dispensing with any sense of basic decency — along with every single precedent and principle the Senate once stood for — in order to reshape the Court to deprive millions of Americans of healthcare and unravel their constitutional protections. 

Justice Ginsburg would have dissented against this transparent effort to dismantle Americans’ hard-fought rights.  And so should we all. 

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[Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is a leading member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the dean of the Senate.]