Amy Coney Barrett hearing live updates: ‘You will be confirmed, God willing’: Senators end questioning of Barrett

Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu and Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
·18 min read

The third day of Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings has started. Refresh this page for updates.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., praised Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as having “met every test” as senators finished their last round of questions.

“You will be confirmed, God willing,” he said.

Graham said he would “hope it’s okay you can be pro-life and adhere to your faith and still be considered by your fellow citizens to be worthy of this job.”

“You can have two glasses of wine tonight,” Graham joked to Barrett, referring to her comments about having a glass of wine after the first night of questioning.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., thanked Barrett for appearing before the committee and apologized for “painful moments” about her children.

“They are innocent victims, and they should not have to go through this,” he said.

The committee now goes into a closed session tonight as they review Barrett’s background report. They will reconvene Thursday morning to hear from outside witnesses.

Nicholas Wu

Does Barrett believe that climate change is a thing?

Later in the hearing, Barrett was again asked about climate change. Sen. Kamala Harris, the California Democrat running for vice president, first posed several other science-based questions to Barrett, including whether she believed smoking causes cancer and whether COVID-19 is contagious. Barrett agreed with both points.

But as Harris uttered her third question, "do you believe that climate change is happening and it's threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink," Barrett refused to weigh in, calling the issue a "very contentious matter of public debate."

"I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial because that's inconsistent with the judicial role," Barrett said.

Christal Hayes

Barrett sidesteps question on whether humans cause global warming

Judge Amy Coney Barrett refused to weigh in on climate change her during confirmation hearing Wednesday, explaining to senators her views on the subject aren't relevant to the job she wants serving on the Supreme Court.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked bluntly whether Barrett believed "human beings cause global warming" to which Barrett responded: "I don't think I am competent to opine on what causes global warming or not."

She continued: "I don't think that my views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge, nor do I feel like I have views that are informed enough, and I haven't studied scientific data. I'm not really in a position to offer any kind of informed opinion."

Barrett has gotten around directly answering many questions on her views about controversial issues, citing a common ethical practice to not answer questions about issues that could come before the court. The practice was made famous by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and dubbed the "Ginsburg rule," something Barrett has cited repeatedly throughout both days of questioning by senators.

Blumenthal voiced his disappointment in Barrett refusing to weigh in on issues that could impact millions of Americans.

"There have been a lot of references to the Ginsburg rule," Blumenthal said. "I think this administration has taken the Ginsburg rule to a new level. I hope it won't be known as the Barrett rule of avoiding responses."

– Christal Hayes

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett testifies during the third day of her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett testifies during the third day of her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Barrett says landmark case on birth control 'unlikely to go anywhere'

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., pressed Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on whether she shared the judicial philosophy of one of her mentors, the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. But Barrett insisted she was her own justice.

Asked about Scalia’s view that Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark 1965 Supreme Court case on contraception, was wrongly decided, Barrett said, “I think that Griswold is very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely to go anywhere."

Coons asked Barrett if she agreed with Scalia that "Griswold was wrongly decided and the state should make it illegal to use contraceptives if they so chose?"

Barrett said she could not express a view "with respect to precedent" but said in order for the decision to be overturned a state legislature would have to pass a state law banning contraceptives – a scenario she said would be "shockingly unlikely."

"I understand that you'll be your own justice and Justice Scalia's philosophy is significant, but I also think you've made it's clear that it's largely your philosophy,“ Coons said. “I'm trying to help viewers understand what it means to replace Justice Ginsburg with someone who may more closely follow Justice Scalia's approach."

Coons argued Barrett’s confirmation “may launch a new chapter of conservative judicial activism” and said he would vote against her confirmation.

Asked by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., whether she was aware of legislative efforts to overturn Griswold, Barrett said she was not aware of any.

Hawley called it “demeaning and insulting” Democrats would try to link Barrett to the “worst interpretation” of Scalia’s philosophy.

-Nicholas Wu

Barrett, if confirmed, would make 3 SCOTUS justices who worked on GOP side of Bush v. Gore

Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court would mean one-third of the high court helped George W. Bush win the presidency 20 years ago.

That point was driven home Wednesday by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who noted that Barrett would be the third justice to have worked on the Republican side in the 2000 dispute over ballots in Florida that led to the Bush v. Gore case decided by the high court.

In her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Barrett called it a “significant case on which I provided research and briefing assistance.” She was recruited to work on the case in Florida for a week at the start of the litigation.

That puts her in powerful company, Klobuchar noted. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh also traveled to Florida to help the GOP cause. Klobuchar asked if that risked the court's legitimacy, but Barrett didn't bite.

“Asking whether something would undermine the legitimacy of the court or not seems to be trying to elicit a question about whether it would be appropriate for justices who participated in that litigation to sit on the case rather than recuse, and I went down that road yesterday," she said.

The topic arose during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing process in 2018. Noting Kavanaugh also helped independent counsel Ken Starr investigate President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and went on to serve in Bush's White House, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called him the “Forrest Gump of Republican politics.” Sen Chuck Schumer, now the Senate Democratic leader, said, “If there was a political fight that needed a political foot soldier … Brett Kavanaugh was probably there.”

– Richard Wolf

Barrett says critique of Affordable Care Act decision was not 'open letter to President Trump'

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, during her third day of confirmation hearings Wednesday, maintained that if confirmed to the Supreme Court she would not have any preconceived plans on how she would view the Affordable Care Act and rule in a case next month that could decide the future of health care for millions.

Piecing together a timeline, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., noted that for years President Donald Trump has made clear his "obsession to repeal Obamacare" and highlighted the timing of a legal journal article Barrett authored in January 2017 – the month Trump took office. That article criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for pushing "the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute" in a 2012 ruling. Klobuchar asked Barrett whether she was aware at the time of that writing that the president was set on repealing the Affordable Care Act and asked whether the federal appeals judge was aware that the president aimed to nominate judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn the law.

"I think that the Republicans have kind of made that clear. It's just been part of the public discourse," Barrett said. "All these questions, you're suggesting that I have animus or that I cut a deal with the president and I was very clear yesterday that, that isn't what happened."

She continued, explaining that she was "aware that [Trump] has criticized the Affordable Care Act" but her journal article was not a message for the president. "I want to stress, I have no animus to or agenda for the Affordable Care Act so to the extent you're suggesting this was like an open letter to President Trump. It was not."

Klobuchar noted the dozens of times Republicans have attempted to overturn Obamacare and said "I find it very hard to believe that you didn't understand that when you wrote the article."

– Christal Hayes

Whitehouse wants changes to SCOTUS financial, ethical reporting

If Amy Coney Barrett makes the leap from a federal appeals court to the Supreme Court, she will find the ethics and financial reporting rules are easier to abide by.

That’s because the high court isn’t subject to the same requirements that govern all lower federal courts.

“I think it’s anomalous that the highest court should have the lowest standards,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing.

Whitehouse sought out Barrett as an ally in his effort to change that situation. In doing so, he seemed to throw in the towel on blocking Barrett’s ascension.

“Take a look at that when you get up there,” he said.

Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, which advocates that justices have term limits and be bound by a code of ethics, notes that there is no formal code of conduct for the Supreme Court, as there is for other federal courts. The justices voluntarily list gifts received on their annual financial disclosure forms, but in lower courts gift rules are set by statute. Appeals courts like Barrett’s keep lists of privately funded judicial seminars, unlike the Supreme Court. And if a justice breaches ethics guidelines, there is no recourse or reprimand, save for impeachment.

– Richard Wolf

Barrett spars with Durbin over gun rights, voting question

Does Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett put gun rights ahead of voting rights?

Yes, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during Wednesday’s hearing. No, Barrett insisted.

It’s a line of questioning that stems from Barrett’s dissent on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in which she said a nonviolent felon should not lose his right to own a gun.

She lost that argument in court, but she was determined not to lose the argument with Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat.

Why, Durbin asked, did she believe owning a gun was an individual right, but voting is only a civic right based on collective action? Why can a felon have a gun but, as is the case in some states, be denied the right to vote?

Barrett has remained calm during most of this week’s hearing, but she clearly took umbrage at Durbin’s conclusion. “I have never denigrated the right to vote,” she said, accusing Durbin of distorting her record. “I think voting is a fundamental right.”

– Richard Wolf

Barrett: No one is above the law

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett agreed under oath that no one person is above the law, even President Donald Trump.

Under questioning from Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, the federal appeals court judge took a similar stance as other justices on the high court that Trump is not above the law.

"Would you agree, first, that nobody is above the law. Not the president, not you, not me. Is that correct?" Leahy asked virtually over video conference.

"I agree, no one is above the law," Barrett stated unequivocally.

She declined to weigh in when asked by Leahy about whether the president has the "absolute right to pardon himself for a crime."

Barrett explained that the question had never come before her in a court and "it's one that calls for legal analysis of what the scope of the pardon power is" and she would need to go through "the judicial process to decide it."

Leahy, unsatisfied by her explanation, said he found the two back-to-back answers "somewhat incompatible."

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored an opinion earlier this year on his and Neil Gorsuch's behalf in which he made clear that Trump is not immune from the law. The case dealt with the president's tax returns, with the high court ruling that Trump could not block prosecutors from gaining access to his financials.

– Christal Hayes

The witness list for final day of hearings Thursday

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released the list of witnesses who will testify on the last day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Thursday.

The hearing will feature two panels of witnesses.

The first panel would include two members of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which evaluates the qualifications of every judicial nominee: Randall D. Noel of Butler Snow, LLP and Pamela J. Roberts of Bowman and Brooke LLP.

The second panel will include Democratic and Republican witnesses who will likely speak to Barrett’s character or in opposition to her confirmation:

  • Dr. Farhan Bhatti, CEO and medical director of Care Free Medical. Bhatti will discuss the Affordable Care Act

  • Retired Judge Thomas Griffith of th United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who has praised Barrett.

  • Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Clarke will testify about voting and civil rights.

  • Professor Saikrishna Prakash of the University of Virginia School of Law, one of Barrett’s professional colleagues

  • Crystal Good, who fought in court for an abortion at age 16 and who will testify about abortion rights.

  • Amanda Rauh-Bieri, associate at Miller Canfield, and a former clerk for Barrett.

  • Stacy Staggs will testify about the consequences of overturning the Affordable Care Act.

  • Laura Wolk, an attorney and one of Barrett’s former law students.

– Nicholas Wu

Barrett says ability to sever a portion of a law – but not the whole law – is 'valuable'

Republicans sought to assure Americans Wednesday that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation isn’t likely to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

Their principal witness: Amy Coney Barrett.

On the second day of questioning, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee elicited responses from Barrett indicating that a Nov. 10 Supreme Court showdown over the law is most likely to erase one provision of the law – not the law itself.

Severing an unconstitutional portion of a law rather than the law itself “serves a valuable function of trying not to undo your work,” Barrett told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the panel.

While her mentor, the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, said in 2012 that the entire law should be struck down because he thought two provisions were unconstitutional, she said the new challenge over tax policy involves only one provision.

The challenge stems from a $1.5 trillion tax cut passed by the Republican-dominated Congress in 2017, which repealed the health care law's tax on people who refuse to buy insurance. That tax was intended to prod them into the health insurance marketplace rather than let them seek emergency care while uninsured.

In reality, it will be very difficult for Barrett to topple the law because at least five justices on the court are likely to uphold it: the three remaining liberal justices along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

– Richard Wolf

Democrats bringing abortion, health care advocates to Thursday hearing

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, will invite four witnesses to speak at Thursday’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

The witnesses come from health care and legal backgrounds and will likely speak to Democrats’ concerns about the possible overturning of the Affordable Care Act and other issues that could come before the court.

The four witnesses are:

  • Stacy Staggs, a mother of 7-year old twins with pre-existing conditions. Staggs will testify about the consequences of overturning the Affordable Care Act.

  • Dr. Farhan Bhatti, a family physician and CEO of Care Free Medical, a nonprofit clinic. Bhatti will discuss the Affordable Care Act.

  • Crystal Good, who fought in court for an abortion at age 16, will testify about abortion rights.

  • Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, will testify about voting and civil rights.

-Nicholas Wu

Graham praises Barrett as an icon for conservative women

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., kicked off the second day of questioning in Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings by pushing back against arguments made by Democrats over the past two days and praising Barrett as an icon for conservative women.

"The hearing to me is an opportunity to not punch through a glass ceiling, but a reinforced concrete barrier around conservative women. You’re gonna shatter that barrier,” Graham told Barrett, who he also hailed as the first “unashamedly pro-life” woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court.

He used part of his 20 minutes of questioning time to respond to Democrats’ allegations Barrett had not been fully candid in her answers, telling Barrett, “I couldn’t disagree more,” and citing previous Supreme Court nominees’ refusal to fully share their legal philosophy.

He also addressed the 2006 pro-life letter signed by Barrett, saying "what we tried to do yesterday was turn a pro-life group into a legislative body and tried to get you to rule on their beliefs."

Barrett had declined to comment on her beliefs about abortion when pressed by lawmakers about the letter and a 2013 ad, telling lawmakers it would not be “appropriate” for her to comment on issues that could come before the court

Barrett’s family sat in the audience behind her as the hearing went on.

– Nicholas Wu

Third day of confirmation hearings begins

The third day of Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings started shortly after 9 a.m. EDT with Sen. Lindsey Graham beginning the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, faced 11 hours of questioning Tuesday. Senators on the committee get more time to ask questions Wednesday.

– Sean Rossman

Senators to grill Amy Coney Barrett on third day of hearings

WASHINGTON – Senators on Wednesday will get to grill Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett again on her career and views that could offer insights on how she would rule on the nation's highest court.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will get another chance to question Barrett on her views on the law and a number of hot-button issues that could come before the court.

Family members of Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett are seated prior to Barrett testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing Wednesday.
Family members of Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett are seated prior to Barrett testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Barrett fielded questions from senators for more than 11 hours, where she attempted to differentiate her legal views from her personal beliefs and largely escaped any controversial confrontations with Democrats eager to block her nomination.

Barrett repeatedly refrained from offering her stance on key issues and cases, such those that could decide the fate of abortion, healthcare and gun laws.

Throughout the lengthy hearing, the 48-year-old federal appeals court judge and law school professor from Indiana sought to define herself as someone who puts personal views aside and addresses legal issues with an open mind.

"I'm committed to the rule of law and the role of the Supreme Court and dispensing equal justice for all," she said during Tuesday' hearing.

Democrats repeatedly highlighted the history of remarks and opinions she's offered over her career that liberals argue endanger the future of a woman's right to abortions and the Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare for millions of Americans.

A recap of Tuesday: Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett strives to show independence from White House, Republicans

How it works: How Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation process will unfold

“If I’m confirmed, you would not be getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett," she said in reference to her more outspoken mentor, the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

She repeatedly stated under oath that she'd offered "no commitment to anyone, not in the Senate, not over at the White House, about how I would decide any case."

On Wednesday, each senator will be given at least 20 minutes to pepper Barrett with questions. The following day, on Thursday, is scheduled to mark the end of Barrett's public vetting, when senators are scheduled to hear from additional witnesses who know Barrett.

Republicans are eager to confirm Barrett to the Court before Election Day and have sped along the confirmation process. A final vote by the full Senate is expected before the end of the month.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will not vote on Barrett's confirmation this week but rather will hold it for one week, a common practice by the panel, before an expected vote around Oct. 22. Barrett's nomination is likely to split along party lines, 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats, before the full Senate takes up her nomination.

She will need at least a majority of the 100-member chamber to be confirmed to the high court, a feat she is expected to cross as Democrats have acknowledged they lack the votes to block her confirmation.

'We wept together': Amy Coney Barrett says George Floyd video was personal for family

More: Amy Barrett's law review articles show how Supreme Court rulings like Roe v. Wade could be challenged

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Coney Barrett hearing updates: Judge says no one is above the law