Senate Republicans plan to move forward with Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination with hearings before the Judiciary Committee starting Oct. 12.
Barrett’s likely confirmation will lock in arguably the most conservative Supreme Court since the 1930s, with the potential to weaken patient protections of the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights in Roe v. Wade, among other decisions.
“I think she’s a strong nominee,” said Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who sits on the committee.
Barrett, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has conservative views on abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, guns and campus sexual assault issues. She clerked for the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, calling his “judicial philosophy … mine, too.”
Cruz told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition that Barrett “has an impeccable background.”
She has only been on the appeals court since 2017 after President Trump nominated her.
“I think she handled herself quite well” at confirmation hearings in 2017, Cruz said. “So I think she has strong attributes. My preference is always someone with a longer proven record. But I think she will make a strong justice.”
Cruz said he believes that “Republicans have a much lousier record” historically than Democrats when it comes to appointing Supreme Court justices.
“Almost every Democratic nominee votes exactly as the Democratic president who appointed them would have wanted in virtually every case,” Cruz said. But Republican nominees “bat .500 at best.”
Too often, as Cruz argues in his new book, One Vote Away, justices appointed by Republican presidents violate “their oath of office and the Constitution” by switching to make what he views as liberal decisions.
Cruz writes in the book that having five conservative justices on the Supreme Court “can ensure the American experiment continues to thrive, but five liberal activist justices could fundamentally transform our Nation.”
He adds, “And far more often than we should be comfortable with, we are
just one vote away from losing these fundamental rights and freedoms.”
Barrett’s likely confirmation will mean conservatives will have a 6-3 majority on the high court. Chief Justice John Roberts, who is considered a conservative, has in the past sided with the court’s liberals in some controversial decisions, including to uphold the ACA. With Barrett’s addition, a potential Roberts swing vote will no longer be enough to sway divided court decisions in liberals’ favor.
The most pressing Supreme Court decision may come in November. Trump said he expects the election results to end up at the court and wants nine justices in place by then. Republican lawyers are on standby to file aggressive legal challenges around voting issues.
Cruz said he does not think Barrett should recuse herself from a court decision on the election should it come before her as a justice.
“The reason we need a fully functioning court is to have nine justices who can resolve any dispute and ensure that the law and Constitution are followed,” Cruz told NPR.
A Supreme Court with eight justices, as it is now, “lacks the constitutional authority to decide anything,” Cruz said. “And so we could have multiple conflicting opinions from multiple courts of appeals and weeks or months of chaos and uncertainty.”
That differs from what Cruz said in 2016. After Scalia’s death, Senate Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for most of the year.
“There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices,” Cruz told reporters in October 2016.
Republicans now argue they were justified in their inaction because Obama was a Democrat while the Senate was GOP-controlled. This time, they say, both the White House and the Senate are held by Republicans.
Reena Advani and Jim Wildman produced the audio interview.