Senate

Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) just before the Senate vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court predicted the Trump nominee will not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case establishing a right to an abortion, once she is on the Supreme Court.

"I don't see her overturning the decision in Roe v. Wade, based on - based on the weighting of the reliance factors," Murkowski, a GOP moderate who is voting for Barrett, said Monday evening.

"I believe, I believe, that given how she outlined, not only to me but how she spoke to the issue of reliance when she was before the committee, I believe that she will look at that and weight that in any matters, in any cases that come before her that take up Roe v. Wade," she explained.

Murkowski is viewed as a pro-choice senator but she has supported some restrictions. She does not support using federal funds to pay for abortion or late-term abortions.

"While I support a women's right to make her own reproductive choices, that support is not without limits," she said earlier this year.

Murkowski was one of two Republican senators, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said the Senate should not confirm President Trump's nominee to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the Nov. 3 election.

Murkowski on Monday said she spent about an hour and twenty minutes meeting with Barrett and asking her about her judicial philosophy. The Alaska Republican said she wanted to hear the nominee's views of precedent and the importance of "reliance," a legal term referring to how individuals come to rely on standing interpretations of law.

Murkowski also said she noted to Barrett that she was 14 years old when the Roe decision was made.

She said she talked with Barrett about "what that means to overturn, potentially overturn something, that generations of women are relying on."

"There's no doubt in my mind that she has the intelligence" to be a strong justice and "clearly is a brilliant jurist," Murkowski said. "That may be what scares some but I think we want to have justices that have an extraordinary grasp and understanding of the law, which she currently does."

Other Republicans have different views of how Barrett may rule on a challenge or potential curtailment of Roe v. Wade, such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who insisted that Trump nominate a judge to the Supreme Court with a record of skepticism toward Roe v. Wade.

Hawley has since said he is very pleased with Barrett joining the high court. He praised her Monday afternoon as "an individual who has been open in her criticism of that illegitimate decision Roe v. Wade."

Murkowski, when asked about the differing views of the nominee, replied: "This is why it's so important that we as individual senators take the time to not only read [but] to listen and to ask questions in ways that may be different."

"Perhaps how [a question] is asked is equally important," she said. "I think if you were to ask Judge Barrett for a document that you could point to that says clearly that she would vote to overturn [Roe v. Wade,] she would say you're not going to find one."

Murkowski noted that Barrett signed an advertisement in the South Bend Tribune in 2006 that called for the overturning of the "barbaric legacy" of Roe v. Wade but also pointed out she did so as an individual, not as a judge.

"Fairly weighting and evaluating, I believe she won't vote to overturn Roe v. Wade," she reiterated.

Murkowski also said she does not think Barrett will rule to strike down the 2010 Affordable Care Act after it comes before the Supreme Court on Nov. 10.

"Based on so much that I have heard, so much that I have read, so much that has been debated, I believe what we're going to see is this issue of severability, where the ACA will not be thrown out," she said.

Barrett testified before the Judiciary Committee earlier this month that the concept of severability, under which parts of a law can be ruled invalid without striking down the entire law, is well established.

"The presumption is always in favor of severability," Barrett told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

When Graham asked for clarification that the "main thing" was that justices recognize a "presumption" to save an underlying law, Barrett replied: "That's correct." 

Barrett gave little indication during her confirmation hearings about how she viewed Roe v. Wade, however.

When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Barrett if she agreed with the late Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey or his view that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled, the nominee declined to answer.

"If I express a view on a precedent one way or another, whether I say I love it or I hate it, it signals to litigant I might tilt one way or another in a pending case," Barrett said. 

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