‘Refuse to answer anything’: Durbin criticizes Barrett for avoiding questions at confirmation hearings

During the last day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., criticized her and the overall process in which nominees don’t answer questions. “What was the purpose of this hearing if we’ve reached the point now when we don’t know what she thinks about any issues ... any major issues?” the senator asked.

Video Transcript

RICHARD DURBIN: One of the things that we have witnessed here and I have witnessed in the time that I've served on this committee is a-- a denigration of the process to the point where it's almost useless. We've reached a point now where gifted, experienced jurist legal scholars take that seat behind the table and then deny everything, refuse to answer anything. Consider that.

Here we are in a situation where we ask-- Senator Feinstein asks the nominee, can a president unilaterally delay a presidential election? She couldn't answer it. Too political. Too political? Three express provisions in the Constitution that spell out that that is the standard for the United States of America. She could certainly have alluded to that. I asked her as a follow-up, can a president unilaterally deny a woman the right to vote? 19th Amendment. Sorry, can't answer it. Could be a case come before me someday.

It even reached the point where Senator Kennedy asked this learned attorney, professor, and jurist if she had any opinion on the issue of climate change. And basically, she said, never thought about it, don't have any views. What are we dealing with here? We're not dealing with the reality of who this person is and what she believes, but some kind of artifice that we have constructed between the nominee and-- and our questions. I-- I would be afraid to ask her about the presence of gravity on Earth. She may decline to answer because it may come up in a case, you know? It could come before the court someday.

And then I look back in history at other nominees, both conservative and liberal, who have answered questions along these lines. What was the purpose of this hearing if we have reached the point now where we really don't know what she thinks about any issues, any major issues? She hides behind Originalism-- she's not the only one; many do-- but won't even go to the original words the Constitution when it comes to the transition of power. It--It just defies logic that we are putting ourselves through this on the notion that we are measuring a person who will spend the rest of my natural life and many on the committee serving on the court if she ends up being nominated and approved and confirmed.