Amy Coney Barrett says Supreme Court can’t enforce rulings

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett answers questions Wednesday on the third day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Pool photo by Bill Clark/UPI

Oct. 14 (UPI) — Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett testified in the Senate Wednesday that while “no one is above the law,” the high court has no power to force a U.S. president to comply with its orders.

Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., during the third day of her Senate confirmation hearing if a sitting president could defy the court’s will by simply refusing to obey its orders, she answered, “the Supreme Court can’t control what the president obeys.”

The justices “can’t do anything to enforce our own judgments,” she added, noting that the court “relies on the other branches to react to its judgments accordingly.”

Queried by Leahy if a president can pardon himself for a crime, Barrett replied that the question was impossible to answer because it has never been litigated.

“It’s not one in which I can offer a view,” she said.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., asked whether she agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ writing in the court’s 2012 opinion on the 1965 Voting Rights Act in which he said “voting discrimination still exists, no one doubts that.”

After initially declining to comment on what justices have said in an opinon, Barrett said she does “think racial discrimination still exists” in the United States.

“I don’t mean to signal I disagree with the statement either, what I mean to say is I’m not going to express an opinion because these are very charged issues, they have been litigated in the courts and so I will not engage on that question,” Barrett said.

Barret also said she wasn’t able to recall a time when she had voted by mail, when questioned by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., about the necessity of mail-in ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can’t recall a time that I voted by mail,” Barrett said after initially declining to express a view on the issue as it is a matter of policy. “It may be in college that I did, when I was living away from home. But I can’t as I’m sitting here specifically recall a time I voted by mail.”

When asked about Griswold vs. Connecticut, which established the right of married couples to obtain and use contraception in the privacy of their own home, Barret said it is “very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely to be overturned” but declined to express her views on the case.

Griswold vs. Connecticut helped to establish the “right to privacy” which is referenced in Roe vs. Wade and Barrett said the only reason the question is worth asking “is to lay a predicate for whether Roe was rightly decided.”

Her testimony came on the third overall day of confirmation hearings — and second day of questioning — for Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, she was questioned for 11 hours as Democrats tried to pin down her views on controversial issues including abortion and the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats fear will be struck down with Barrett as a justice of the high court.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on Wednesday called Democrats’ focus on the ACA “a distraction,” citing Barrett’s earlier testimony that she “has no agenda” to dismantle the healthcare law and has never made any commitments to anyone, including Trump, to eliminate it.

Each of the 22 committee members were again allotted 30 minutes Wednesday to question Barrett, as the hearings drew closer to the panel’s scheduled vote on her nomination Thursday.

Barrett was challenged repeatedly on Tuesday by Democrats to voice an opinion on the landmark 1973 abortion case, Roe vs. Wade, and whether she agreed with her late mentor, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that it was “decided wrongly.”

Barrett was also asked multiple times about the ACA — including her past criticisms of Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2012 ruling to uphold the law. Democrats voiced fears that Barrett could be the pivotal vote in a case brought by Republican state officials seeking to dismantle the ACA, which they say could strip insurance coverage for 20 million Americans during a pandemic.

Barrett on Tuesday declined to answer questions on past or potential future rulings.

Monday, the first day of her confirmation process, Barrett and members of the panel gave opening statements.

Wednesday’s hearing opened with praise from committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for her “historic” nomination.

“This is the first time in American history that we have nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology, and she’s going to the court. A seat at the table is waiting on you.”

Graham hailed Barrett for performing at Tuesday’s hearing under tough questioning from Democrats opposed to her nomination.

Senate Republicans have praised her devout Catholic faith and personal story as a mother of seven children who has carved out a high-powered legal career.

“I’m highly confident that you would judge every American based on their case, not the law of Amy,” Graham said.

Barrett is expected to be confirmed along party lines in committee. If approved, her nomination would move to the full Senate for a final vote, where she needs a simple majority to become a Supreme Court justice.


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