Senate Democrats used the first hours of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings Monday to torch the GOP’s decision to ‘rush’ through the process amid a pandemic just week’s before the election – and called it an effort to take down Obamacare, setting the stage for a fiery week of hearings.
In contrast Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham put Barrett in a ‘category of excellence’ and called her a ‘worthy successor’ to the late Justice Antonin Scalia – the conservative justice whose ‘judicial philosophy is mine,’ Barrett has said repeatedly.
The morning’s hearing did not hear from Barrett, but consisted of opening statements from senators – raising the curtain on the latest blockbuster event to rattle Washington in a fall that had already seen the president hospitalized with coronavirus, pulling out of a presidential debate and and jumping back on the campaign trail amid plunging poll numbers.
Although the morning’s beginning was sedate the dividing lines were sharply drawn with Democrats determined to focus on the alleged threat Barrett represents to the Affordable Care Act, highlighting cases of people who they say would lose care if it were struck down, and Republicans accusing their opponents of attacking her conservative Catholic faith. She is a member of the tiny charismatic People of Praise group.
Outside there were dueling protests and 21 arrests as opponents of her nomination highlighted her professed opposition to abortion, while supporters called for her rapid confirmation. The potential threat she represents to Roe v. Wade was less mentioned by Democrats than the issue of Obamacare, but they are expected to question her as early as Tuesday on whether she sees the 1973 establishment of abortion rights as settled law.
And Trump himself live-tweeted the event, attacking Democrats and questioning why they were even allowed to speak.
The Republican-controlled Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, lined up the hearings immediately after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump’s nomination of Barrett, a conservative appeals court judge who taught law at Notre Dame, would expand the conservative majority on the court to 6-3.
Senate Democrats are outvoted and can’t rely on the filibuster to save them thanks to a rules change, even with polling showing the public would prefer to wait until after the elections to confirm a judge to a lifetime appointment. They also can’t control the schedule, so long as Republicans manage to stay healthy and can come to the Capitol to meet a quorum to secure a vote.
Each Democratic speaker raised concerns that once Barrett wins confirmation, she will immediately rule against the Affordable Care Act, the crowning achievement of President Obama’s administration, with the Supreme Court set to hear a case which could lead to it being struck down on November 10.
The confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett commenced Monday. She was not heard from for the course of the morning and early afternoon and kept her mask on for the hearing
Biggest room: The hearing from Amy Coney Barrett was held in the largest available committee room to ensure social distancing. Previous confirmations have been packed affairs but in contrast she was allowed only some of her family and a handful of officials to back her. Senate staff were almost all working remotely too
The Senate Judiciary Committee held the hearing in person, although some lawmakers dialed in remotely. As Coney Barrett took her seat, she faced a Senate Committee at far more distance than is normal
Personal appeals: Democrats put up pictures of people from their states who they say would face losing healthcare if the Affordable Care Act was struck down and said they believed Amy Coney Barrett was selected to do precisely that
Contention: In the area between the Senate and the Supreme Court (rear) there were dueling protests and 21 arrests
With President Trump’s nominee seated at a live Judiciary Committee hearing wearing a mask days after a White House superspreader event celebrating her nomination, Democrats directed their initial fire not at the nominee but at the president and Senate leaders who hastened to install her on the court.
‘It is a shameless, self-serving, venal reversal,’ said Democratic whip Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, after recounting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s successful efforts to stall Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, was among those pointing to scheduled Supreme Court arguments Nov. 10 on the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration is seeking to strike down the law.
‘Health-care coverage for millions of Americans is at stake in this nomination,’ she said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island pointed to the perilous undercurrent of the hearings: two panel members had tested positive for COVID-19, and panel chair Sen. Lindsey Graham has declined to take a coronavirus test after attending the White House event where numerous attendees later tested positive.
‘I don’t know who has been tested, who should be tested, who is a danger. What contact tracing has been done on infected and exposed senators and staff. Nothing,’ he fumed.
‘The whole thing just like Trump, is an irresponsible botch. The irony is that this slapdash hearing targets the Affordable Care Act,’ he said.
Livetweeting: Donald Trump reacted to the hearing as it proceeded and was particularly furious at accusations he would end care for people with pre-existing conditions
‘Please don’t tell us this isn’t about the Affordable Care Act,’ he intoned.
The nomination fight has already provided a new talking point in Trump’s reelection, while reshaping the race in other ways. It was after a White House pep rally for Barrett that the president, the first lady, and three Republican senators tested positive for the coronavirus.
And it was in response to the state of the court that Democrat Joe Biden is facing growing media pressure following dodges about whether he would seek to expand its size to try to roll back its entrenched conservative majority.
As the Democratic hits piled up, Trump weighed in on Twitter, indicating he would rather dispense with the hearing or at least dial back Democratic speaking time. Both parties alternate on an equal time basis based on longstanding committee rules and practice.
‘The Republicans are giving the Democrats a great deal of time, which is not mandated, to make their self serving statements relative to our great new future Supreme Court Justice. Personally, I would pull back, approve, and go for STIMULUS for the people!!!’ he wrote.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) complained in his testimony given remotely that Democrats ‘virtually not a word’ about Barrett herself, focusing their attacks on Trump, the process, and issues before the court. Cruz is in quarantine after exposure to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who tested positive.
Durbin also introduced another issue: claiming Trump wanted to rush ahead with the nomination so that a more conservative court could rule on challenges to the vote.
‘He anticipates court challenges over the vote. Especially over mail in balloting which he has repeatedly attacked without any substance,’ said Durbin.
The clashes began immediately Monday morning as senators delivered their opening statements during the first day of Barrett’s confirmation hearing that was set to drive controversy through the week.
A poll released Monday shows 62 per cent of registered voters want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade and the abortion laws that stemmed from it – as Democrats worry Barrett’s confirmation could threaten the landmark case
Democrats kicked off the day by claiming Barrett would dismantle the Affordable Care Act and rid women of their reproductive rights – mainly the right to an abortion – if she were confirmed.
Barrett arrived at the Capitol Monday morning with her large family in tow.
The Supreme Court nominee will deliver an opening statement Monday afternoon following opening remarks from each of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Chairman Lindsey Graham started off the morning with opening statements praising Barrett, but acknowledged the week would be ‘long and contentious.’
Senators’ questioning of Barrett will commence Tuesday.
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, appeared from home remotely while he contends with his positive test for COVID-19.
He spoke in front of a fireplace mantle, with a loud cell phone interrupting his remarks three times.
He blasted Democrats while defending Barrett. If ‘they care about our constitutional liberties then they should care about confirming a judge who understands the proper role of the Supreme Court,’ he said.
Protesters gathered outside Dirksen Senate Office Building early Monday morning as women’s rights activists claim Barrett’s confirmation would be a threat to women’s reproductive rights – particularly the right to an abortion.
Democratic lawmakers are also concerned a 6-3 conservative majority court could overturn Roe v. Wade.
Barrett’s family, including her husband and seven children, too their seats in a row behind her for the entirety of the first day of the hearing
The Senate Judiciary Committee is chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (pictured), and he acknowledged during his opening remarks Monday that the week will be ‘long and contentious’
In the spotlight: Amy Coney Barrett faces days of questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee but was only due to read her opening statement Monday
Distanced hearing: The Senate Judiciary Committee in its spread-out format for the hearing
Demonstrators braved a rainy and chilly D.C. day as they gathered outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building Monday to protest Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court
Clashes ensue: While many protested Barrett’s confirmation, demonstrators also showed up in support of the nominee with signs readings: ‘Women for AMY’ and others urging senators to ‘Confirm Amy’
Pro-life protesters also met outside the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. to support Barrett’s nomination
NO PERFUME, NO BELT BUCKLES AND NO THONGS: INSIDE PEOPLE OF PRAISE
In the secretive world of the ultra-conservative People of Praise, large belt buckles are considered a sin.
‘They draw attention to the crotch region,’ a former member told DailMail.com exclusively.
Perfume and cologne are banned for similar reasons. ‘That would indicate you are trying to tempt someone with pheromones,’ the ex-member explained.
And single women are told they can only wear plain white cotton panties. ‘Certainly, no thongs —not that anyone is going to see their underwear anyway,’ the member, who asked for anonymity, said.
These are just some of the rules that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was raised under as a member of People of Praise, a mainly Roman Catholic faith group that boasts fewer than 1,700 adult members.
Barrett was brought up in Metairie, Louisiana, as a member of People of Praise. Her father, Mike Coney, a former oil company lawyer, has been a leading member for decades. Her attorney-husband, Jesse, 46, whom she met while both were students at Notre Dame University, was also raised in the group.
People of Praise is headquartered in Notre Dame’s hometown, South Bend, Indiana, and many of its leading members have ties to the university. According to its website, the group has branches in 14 states as well as one in Canada and two in the Caribbean. It runs three Grades 7-through-12 Trinity Schools and one elementary school.
A former member told DailMail.com exclusively about the group and its rules. He said large belt buckles are considered a sin because they draw attention to the crotch region
Mother-of-seven Barrett — who lives in South Bend — has never publicly said she is a member.
People of Praise is strongly anti-abortion. It also rejects homosexuality. ‘Both are seen as being accepted by human law, but rejected by divine law,’ the former member explained.
‘Homosexual relationships are taboo, and any LGBTQ inclinations are seen as temptations that must be overcome through prayer. If that fails, the member must lead a life of chastity.’
Even dating is a no-no until a member has ‘prayed through their state in life’ and decided they are ready to ‘marry for the Lord.’ If they have not committed themselves to marriage, they must not date.
‘Dating before you are ready for marriage is prohibited,’ the former member said. ‘And sex outside marriage is strictly forbidden. Violating either of these two rules will result in expulsion.
‘Courtship is allowed, but only with the intended purpose of finding your partner for your marriage in the Lord.
‘If a single male member who has prayed through his state in life asks out a single female who has prayed through her state in life, she must go on at least two dates with him to see if they are compatible.’
But even then, there are limits as to how close the couple can get. ‘Physical intimacy between couples should only be as much as you would be willing to do if your own father is sitting there watching you,’ the former member told DailyMail.com.
Members who are committed to marriage are allowed to date more than one person at a time as the entire purpose of courtship is to find a suitable spouse.
The other 20 members of the Judiciary Committee – aside from Graham and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein – were each given 10 minutes to recite their own opening statements.
Republican Senator Mike Lee, who tested positive for coronavirus 10 days ago after attending the ‘super spreader’ event announcing Barrett’s nomination last month, showed up for the hearing and delivered his opening remarks in-person.
After Lee spoke, Graham tried a joke that married his positive coronavirus test with the Constitution.
‘Senator Lee’s enthusiasm for the dormant Commerce Clause convinces me you’ve made a full recovery,’ Graham quipped.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and ally of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said this ‘rushed hypocritical, partisan process should not proceed.’ The pointed to numerous GOP efforts seeking to vote down the Affordable Care Act.
‘To achieve what they could not accomplish through the democratic process, they’re looking to the courts, in fact to The Court. They’re looking to this nominee,’ he said.
‘Judge Barrett I’m not suggesting you made some secret deal with President Trump,’ Coons said to the nominee. ‘ ‘But I believe the reason you were chosen is precisely because your judicial philosophy, as repeatedly stated, could lead to the outcomes President Trump has sought.’
A series of Democrats showed photos of constituents they said suffered illnesses and relied on the Affordable Care Act for insurance coverage.
The included Debbie from Newcastle, Del., who used it for physical therapy and doctors appointments, and a Martha from Vermont, who Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said ‘shutters at what would have happened without the Medicaid expansion’ as part of the law.
While many senators and staff decided to join the hearing in-person – some opted to remain remote in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will join the hearing via Zoom as she remains in her office in the same building.
Graham’s opening statement reflected and retraced some of the animosity of the judicial wars as well as his own tortured positions on whether the Senate should act on a judge before a presidential election.
‘This is going to be a long and contentious week,’ he warned, predicting the vote would happen on party lines.
Graham, facing a tough reelection against an opponent who has been raking in campaign donations since the court vacancy occurred, acknowledged the cross currents.
Although Graham has the distinction of voting for Barack Obama’s court picks, he also stated flatly that he would not support moving a nominee in the year before an election.
‘A lot of people on our side say just ram it through. I hear that a lot. That’s why I don’t listen to the radio much anymore,’ said Graham.
Graham said in October, 2018, amid Democratic fury over the GOP stalling the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland: ‘If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.’
On Monday, Graham felt the need to say the hearings he organized 16 days after the vacancy occurred were constitutional.
‘I feel that we’re doing this constitutionally. Our Democratic friends object to the process. I respect them all. They’ll have a chance to have their say,’ he said.
He acknowledged Democrats who have floated the idea of packing the court with additional seats as conservatives are poised to get a 6-3 advantage.
‘Nine seems to be a good number,’ Graham said.
His statements on the pace of the hearing – he said about half of nominations had gotten a hearing within 16 days – came at a meeting where Democrats including Kamala Harris opted not to appear in person amid the pandemic. Graham refused to take a COVID-19 test before his scheduled debate with Democrat Jaime Harrison in South Carolina.
‘Let the people decided’: Others outside the Supreme Court said the nomination and confirmation process should wait until after the 2020 presidential election
Capitol police arrest protesters who blocked the entrance to Dirksen Senate Office Building ahead of the hearing
Democratic Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, who notably excoriated Barrett during her confirmation hearing for a judgeship at the appeals level, showed up in person.
One in four registered voters support the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade a new poll revealed Monday as Amy Coney Barrett prepares for the first day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 62 per cent of those surveyed said the highest court needs to uphold Roe v. Wade – the landmark Supreme Court case used as the basis of abortion law in the U.S.
On the other hand, 24 per cent of American voters say they want the case overturned, which would effectively end abortion rights as they’re known.
Fourteen per cent of the 879 registered voters polled say they have no opinion on whether the case is overturned or upheld.
The results, which are broadly split among political, ideological and religious bases, comes as President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett heads to Capitol Hill to commence the confirmation process.
Democrats are worried Barrett, a devout Roman Catholic who has publicly shared her pro-life views in the past, is a threat to women’s healthcare – mainly the current right to an abortion.
Nominee arrives: Barrett, 48, is pictured walking to her hearing room on Capitol Hill Monday morning for the first day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Five of Barrett’s children are biological to her and her husband Jesse Barrett, and two are adopted from Haiti
In the poll taken October 6-9, after Trump announced Barrett as the unprecedented third Supreme Court pick of his first term, 66 per cent of women said Roe v. Wade should be upheld – and 58 per cent of men feel the same.
Among party lines, 81 per cent of Democrats and liberals combined say the case needs to be enforced and upheld, while 75 per cent of voters who identify as moderates also say it should be upheld.
That number drops to 37 per cent among conservatives and to 40 per cent among Republicans.
Three in four people who have no religious preference want the case upheld, while only 44 per cent of Protestants feel the same.
During her opening remarks, Barrett will praise her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and tell senators courts ‘should not try’ to make policy.
A transcript of the remarks Barrett intends to deliver later Monday afternoon was released to the media Sunday.
The 48-year-old mother of seven will speak to the Republican-led panel about how Scalia, whom she clerked for after law school, shaped not only her philosophies about the law, but also about family.
‘Justice Scalia taught me more than just law,’ her statement reads. ‘He was devoted to his family, resolute in his beliefs, and fearless of criticism.’
‘As I embarked on my own legal career, I resolved to maintain that same perspective,’ it continues. ‘There is a tendency in our profession to treat the practice of law as all-consuming, while losing sight of everything else. But that makes for a shallow and unfulfilling life.’
Barrett’s remarks came to light as Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a staunch Trump ally, predicted that Barrett will be confirmed no later than October 27.
Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, the South Carolina Republican said that a vote will be held a week after the hearing wraps up on October 22.
‘I believe she will be confirmed no later than Tuesday, a week before the election,’ Graham said.
‘That’s my hope. It will be up to Senator [Mitch] McConnell what do after the 22nd, but we can easily get her confirmed before the election.’
About a dozen activists dressed as characters from The Handmaid’s Tale staged a protest against Barrett’s confirmation hearing outside the Supreme Court Sunday morning
One of the protester holds a sign that reads: ‘Vote while you still can!’
Among the key points in Barrett’s opening statement is her belief that policy decisions should be left up to political branches of government – Congress and the presidency – not the courts.
‘Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society,’ the Seventh Circuit judge’s statement says.
‘But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the People.’
In addition to praising Scalia, who died in 2016, Barrett will pay tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose seat she is hoping to fill.
‘When I was 21 years old and just beginning my career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat in this seat,’ her statement reads. ‘She told the Committee: ‘What has become of me could only happen in America.’
‘I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place. I will be forever grateful for the path she marked and the life she led.’
Barrett will also talk about her seven children with husband Jesse Barrett, joking that she’s ‘used to being in a group of nine’.
She will say that she looks forward to bringing ‘a few new perspectives’ as the first mother of school-age children on the nine-member court.
In her opening remarks Barrett will pay tribute to Justice Antonin Scalia (left), whom she clerked for, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (right), whose seat she is hoping to fill
The confirmation hearing comes just three weeks before the 2020 presidential election and has been the subject of heated debate between Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans who control the Senate are moving at a breakneck pace to put Barrett on the Supreme Court before the election – in the face of fierce criticism from Democrats who say President Donald Trump should have waited until after the election to nominate Ginsburg’s replacement.
The GOP is hoping to have Barrett – a conservative – confirmed in time for a high profile challenge to the Affordable Care Act and any election-related challenges.
Should Democrats take back control of the Senate in the election, confirming Barrett would become much more difficult.
In his Fox News interview on Sunday, Graham criticized some Democrats who have threatened to pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices if Biden wins and his party takes over the Senate
Barrett would be Trump’s third Supreme Court justice. No Supreme Court justice has ever been confirmed so close to a presidential election.
Barrett’s nomination has been chaotic to say the least, worsened by suspicions that a coronavirus outbreak gripping the White House was sparked by an event where Trump ceremonially tapped her on September 26 in the Rose Garden.
The outbreak fueled Democrats’ cries that the confirmation hearing should be postponed because of the ongoing pandemic.
In his Fox News interview on Sunday, Graham criticized some Democrats who have threatened to pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices if Biden wins and his party takes over the Senate.
‘It changes America as we know it,’ Graham said. ‘If we lost the House, the Senate and the White House they’re going to change the rules of the Senate… so you only need a majority, anything coming out of the House sails through the Senate.
‘They’re going to expand the court from nine to whatever number they need to make it liberal… A liberal Supreme Court is a nightmare for business, it’s a nightmare for social policy.
‘If [Democrats] win, it’s not going to be about a health care debate, they’re going to structurally change the country.’
Biden has refused to reveal his stance on court-packing.
President Trump announced his nomination of Barrett during a Rose Garden ceremony on September 26 (pictured). That event was believed to have spawned a coronavirus outbreak in the White House
The country will get an extended look at Barrett over three days, beginning with her opening statement late Monday and hours of questioning Tuesday and Wednesday.
A mother of seven, Barrett will describe how she uses her children as a test when deciding cases, asking herself how she would view the decision if one of her children were the party she was ruling against.
‘Even though I would not like the result, would I understand that the decision was fairly reasoned and grounded in the law?’ she says.
A Catholic, she says she believes in the ‘power of prayer’, and she thanks those who have reached out with messages of support.
Ordinarily, she would get to show off her large family. But the White House event announcing her nomination, in which most of the audience did not wear masks, has been labeled a ‘superspreader’ for the coronavirus.
More than two dozen people linked to the September 26 Rose Garden event have contracted COVID-19 since then, including Republican Sens Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In an interview with the AP, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Sen Graham has ‘an obligation to be tested’ for COVID-19 before the hearing begins because he has been exposed to those with the disease.
Barrett and her family went maskless at the event. Barrett and her husband, Jesse, tested positive for the virus earlier this year and recovered, two administration officials have said.
Barrett and her family (pictured) went maskless at her nomination event on September 26
While senators will be able to participate remotely, it’s unclear whether anyone will do so. Most Democrats have said they will attend, and Tillis and Lee both said they hoped to be recovered and present.
Democrats already were enraged that Republicans are moving so quickly after their actions four years ago kept a seat open after Scalia died in February 2016, before that year’s election, and President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to take his place. The Senate did not grant Garland even a hearing, much less a vote.
Outside groups are pushing Democrats to make a strong case against what they call an illegitimate confirmation so close to the election, when people are already voting in some states.
‘The Democrats have a very strong hand to play politically, even if they do not have the votes to stop it,’ said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, which advocates against right-leaning nominees.
‘The public is with them that this shouldn’t happen before the election.’
Democrats have made clear that they will press Barrett on health care, especially with the imminent Supreme Court arguments, and abortion, among other issues where her vote could push the court further to the right.
‘I intend to, and I think everybody else on the Democratic side, will focus on the fact that she is being pushed on to the Supreme Court just in time for the November 10 hearing on the Affordable Care Act,’ Sen Mazie Hirono (D – Hawaii) said. ‘That leaves millions and millions of families totally in the cold in regard to health care.’
Barrett also is the most openly anti-abortion Supreme Court nominee in decades and her vote could provide a majority to restrict if not overturn abortion rights. She also has voiced skepticism about some gun control laws.
Sen Richard Blumenthal (D – Connecticut), pointed to a dissenting opinion Barrett wrote last year in favor of allowing people convicted of nonviolent crimes to own guns. Federal law currently has a blanket prohibition on gun ownership by convicted felons. ‘She is extreme on this issue,’ Blumenthal said at a news conference.
Republicans will highlight Barrett’s belief in sticking to the text of laws and the original meaning of constitutional provisions, both Scalia trademarks as well.
Her personal story also will be a frequent topic of conversation when Republicans are asking questions.
‘She has proven a mom really can do anything,’ Sen Joni Ernst (R – Iowa) said after meeting with Barrett last week.
Amy Coney Barrett’s opening statement at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing
Below is a transcript of the statement Barrett will deliver at the start of her confirmation hearing on Monday:
Chairman Graham, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Members of the Committee: I am honored and humbled to appear before you as a nominee for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
I thank the President for entrusting me with this profound responsibility, as well as for the graciousness that he and the First Lady have shown my family throughout this process.
I thank Senator Young for introducing me, as he did at my hearing to serve on the Seventh Circuit. I thank Senator Braun for his generous support. And I am especially grateful to former Dean Patty O’Hara of Notre Dame Law School. She hired me as a professor nearly 20 years ago and has been a mentor, colleague, and friend ever since.
I thank the Members of this Committee—and your other colleagues in the Senate—who have taken the time to meet with me since my nomination. It has been a privilege to meet you.
As I said when I was nominated to serve as a Justice, I am used to being in a group of nine—my family. Nothing is more important to me, and I am so proud to have them behind me.
My husband Jesse and I have been married for 21 years. He has been a selfless and wonderful partner at every step along the way. I once asked my sister, ‘Why do people say marriage is hard? I think it’s easy.’ She said, ‘Maybe you should ask Jesse if he agrees.’ I decided not to take her advice. I know that I am far luckier in love than I deserve.
Jesse and I are parents to seven wonderful children. Emma is a sophomore in college who just might follow her parents into a career in the law. Vivian came to us from Haiti. When she arrived, she was so weak that we were told she might never walk or talk normally. She now deadlifts as much as the male athletes at our gym, and I assure you that she has no trouble talking. Tess is 16, and while she shares her parents’ love for the liberal arts, she also has a math gene that seems to have skipped her parents’ generation. John Peter joined us shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and Jesse, who brought him home, still describes the shock on JP’s face when he got off the plane in wintertime Chicago. Once that shock wore off, JP assumed the happy-go-lucky attitude that is still his signature trait. Liam is smart, strong, and kind, and to our delight, he still loves watching movies with Mom and Dad. Ten-year-old Juliet is already pursuing her goal of becoming an author by writing multiple essays and short stories, including one she recently submitted for publication. And our youngest—Benjamin, who has Down Syndrome—is the unanimous favorite of the family.
My own siblings are here, some in the hearing room and some nearby. Carrie, Megan, Eileen, Amanda, Vivian, and Michael are my oldest and dearest friends. We’ve seen each other through both the happy and hard parts of life, and I am so grateful that they are with me now.
My parents, Mike and Linda Coney, are watching from their New Orleans home. My father was a lawyer and my mother was a teacher, which explains how I ended up as a law professor. More important, my parents modeled for me and my six siblings a life of service, principle, faith, and love. I remember preparing for a grade-school spelling bee against a boy in my class. To boost my confidence, Dad sang, ‘Anything boys can do, girls can do better.’ At least as I remember it, I spelled my way to victory.
I received similar encouragement from the devoted teachers at St. Mary’s Dominican, my all-girls high school in New Orleans. When I went to college, it never occurred to me that anyone would consider girls to be less capable than boys.
My freshman year, I took a literature class filled with upperclassmen English majors. When I did my first presentation—on Breakfast at Tiffany’s—I feared I had failed. But my professor filled me with confidence, became a mentor, and—when I graduated with a degree in English—gave me Truman Capote’s collected works.
Although I considered graduate studies in English, I decided my passion for words was better suited to deciphering statutes than novels. I was fortunate to have wonderful legal mentors—in particular, the judges for whom I clerked. The legendary Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit gave me my first job in the law and continues to teach me today. He was by my side during my Seventh Circuit hearing and investiture, and he is cheering me on from his living room now. I also clerked for Justice Scalia, and like many law students, I felt like I knew the justice before I ever met him, because I had read so many of his colorful, accessible opinions. More than the style of his writing, though, it was the content of Justice Scalia’s reasoning that shaped me. His judicial philosophy was straightforward: A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were. Sometimes that approach meant reaching results that he did not like. But as he put it in one of his best known opinions, that is what it means to say we have a government of laws, not of men.
Justice Scalia taught me more than just law. He was devoted to his family, resolute in his beliefs, and fearless of criticism. And as I embarked on my own legal career, I resolved to maintain that same perspective. There is a tendency in our profession to treat the practice of law as all-consuming, while losing sight of everything else. But that makes for a shallow and unfulfilling life. I worked hard as a lawyer and a professor; I owed that to my clients, my students, and myself. But I never let the law define my identity or crowd out the rest of my life. A similar principle applies to the role of courts. Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society. But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. 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.
That is the approach I have strived to follow as a judge on the Seventh Circuit.
In every case, I have carefully considered the arguments presented by the parties, discussed the issues with my colleagues on the court, and done my utmost to reach the result required by the law, whatever my own preferences might be. I try to remain mindful that, while my court decides thousands of cases a year, each case is the most important one to the parties involved. After all, cases are not like statutes, which are often named for their authors. Cases are named for the parties who stand to gain or lose in the real world, often through their liberty or livelihood.
When I write an opinion resolving a case, I read every word from the perspective of the losing party. I ask myself how would I view the decision if one of my children was the party I was ruling against: Even though I would not like the result, would I understand that the decision was fairly reasoned and grounded in the law? That is the standard I set for myself in every case, and it is the standard I will follow as long as I am a judge on any court.
When the President offered this nomination, I was deeply honored. But it was not a position I had sought out, and I thought carefully before accepting. The confirmation process—and the work of serving on the Court if I am confirmed—requires sacrifices, particularly from my family. I chose to accept the nomination because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the place of the Supreme Court in our Nation. I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written. And I believe I can serve my country by playing that role.
I come before this Committee with humility about the responsibility I have been asked to undertake, and with appreciation for those who came before me. I was nine years old when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit in this seat. She was a model of grace and dignity throughout her distinguished tenure on the Court. When I was 21 years old and just beginning my career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat in this seat. She told the Committee, ‘What has become of me could only happen in America.’ I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place. I will be forever grateful for the path she marked and the life she led.
If confirmed, it would be the honor of a lifetime to serve alongside the Chief Justice and seven Associate Justices. I admire them all and would consider each a valued colleague. And I might bring a few new perspectives to the bench. As the President noted when he announced my nomination, I would be the first mother of school-age children to serve on the Court. I would be the first Justice to join the Court from the Seventh Circuit in 45 years. And I would be the only sitting Justice who didn’t attend law school at Harvard or Yale. I am confident that Notre Dame will hold its own, and maybe I could even teach them a thing or two about football.
As a final note, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the many Americans from all walks of life who have reached out with messages of support over the course of my nomination. I believe in the power of prayer, and it has been uplifting to hear that so many people are praying for me. I look forward to answering the Committee’s questions over the coming days. And if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, I pledge to faithfully and impartially discharge my duties to the American people as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Thank you.