President Donald Trump named Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday, setting off a heated confirmation battle to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacant seat just 38 days before the election. “Today, it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court,” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.” “I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution,” Coney Barrett said. “I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court.”
The selection is the latest development in the GOP’s transparent scramble to tilt the nation’s highest court further to the right with a nominee who, if confirmed, would form a 6-3 conservative majority, potentially impacting a generation of rulings on issues ranging from Obamacare to immigration to abortion. In Washington on Friday night, Trump confirmed to reporters that he had come to a decision. “In my own mind, yes,” he said, per Politico. Asked about Barrett, who Trump nominated to the federal bench in 2017, the president said: “I haven’t said it was her but she is outstanding.”
Barrett, a federal appellate judge and Notre Dame law professor who once clerked for late right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia, has been the leading contender on Trump’s shortlist of picks and is the only nominee known to have met with the president in person. “She was the plan all along,” a former senior administration official told CNN, adding that “she has the strongest support among the legal conservatives who have dedicated their lives to the court” and “will contribute most to the court’s jurisprudence in the years and decades to come.” As Politico notes, Barrett will likely receive broad support from Senate Republicans given that she was in consideration two years ago for the seat that ultimately went to Brett Kavanaugh, as well as her conservative stance on issues like abortion—Barrett reportedly stated that “life begins at conception” during a 2013 speech on Roe v. Wade—and the Affordable Care Act. In 2018, Trump reportedly told confidants that he was “saving her for Ginsburg.”
The appointment would bring Trump one step closer to delivering on the promise he made on the debate stage four years ago, when he vowed to nominate only “pro-life” justices to the Supreme Court. Despite the fact that she has been a judge for only three years and would be the sitting justice with the least courtroom experience, Barrett’s conservative background and popularity among right-wing advocates—especially religious ones—position her as an obvious pick who political advisers hope will galvanize Trump’s conservative base in the weeks before they head to the polls. “Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the A.C.A. and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom,” Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a progressive legal policy coalition, told the New York Times.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden addressed the stakes in a statement Saturday, noting that “health care hangs in the balance,” along with voting rights, abortion rights, and collective bargaining rights. “President Trump has been trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act for four years,” Biden said. “Republicans have been trying to end it for a decade. Twice, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional. But even now, in the midst of a global health pandemic, the Trump Administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the entire law, including its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”