Amy Coney Barrett is brilliant; her ascent to the Supreme Court is not

Amy Coney Barrett is brilliant; her ascent to the Supreme Court is not
© Bonnie Cash

This one is easy: Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettThe truth, the whole truth about protecting preexisting conditions New Supreme Court presents an uncertain future for LGBTQ health McConnell plans to fill two key circuit court seats even if Trump loses MORE is brilliant, qualified for the Supreme Court, the most engaging selection since Sandra Day O'Connor.

She's also the most right-wing nominee since Robert Bork was rejected in 1987. Also — through no fault of her own — she is ascending because Republicans cheated. That will be a permanent stain.

The process is rigged so that she will be voted on and approved by the Senate shortly before the election, COVID-19 fears notwithstanding. Senate Democrats need to carefully build a persuasive case why this is objectionable and focus on the consequences. They should avoid personal shots.


The argument will be advanced by Barrett, currently on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and her supporters that judges don't bring their personal views to the High Court, they just call balls and strikes. Sure. Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgThe truth, the whole truth about protecting preexisting conditions McConnell plans to fill two key circuit court seats even if Trump loses GOP faces fundraising reckoning as Democrats rake in cash MORE brought her deeply held personal views to the court, as will Judge Barrett; they happen to be diametrically different.

The right-wing Federalist Society is not popping the champagne corks over getting an umpire.

To be sure, a few nominees have turned out differently than when appointed. William Brennan was a leading liberal for decades, not exactly what President Eisenhower expected. David Souter was more moderate than George H.W. Bush anticipated, though this was no surprise to his New Hampshire colleagues.

Other than an occasional stray vote, these are the exceptions.

To those liberal colleagues on the faculty at Notre Dame or those who knew her when she was a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia or from judicial forums who say ‘We disagree with her but she's a great choice,’ — I’d say that may make for interesting anecdotes in the classroom or salons: It won't assuage those who will be hurt by her decisions.


Under a court with Barrett in the majority, lower and middle income Americans probably will have less access to government-assisted health care; voting rights — especially for minorities — are more likely to be contracted than expanded; union organizing will be more difficult, and immigrant and criminal defendants will have fewer protections.

At her confirmation hearings, her responses, like those of her predecessors, will be predictable: She will talk about her respect for precedent when asked about overturning the Roe v Wade abortion decision.

She will deny that her criticism of the chief justice's decision upholding the Affordable Care Act suggests she will side against it; a week after the election, the court will hear the Trump administration's initiative to throw out the entire act, including the protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

Supporters say Roe v Wade or the ACA won't be overthrown. Perhaps not explicitly, but Barrett and like-minded justices will find work-arounds to gut both measures.

Count on it.

Democrats shouldn't refuse to meet with her — that was the tactic used by most Republicans four years ago when they refused for nine and half months to meet with Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandWhat a Biden administration should look like McConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court MORE who was nominated by Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBerlin's Madame Tussauds places wax Trump in a dumpster ahead of election New poll shows Biden leading Trump by 6 points in North Carolina Who is 'Anonymous' author Miles Taylor? MORE. They should not boycott her Judiciary Committee hearing. They should focus on the threat to the ACA, overturning Roe v Wade — not abortion in general — and on the hypocrisy of Republicans who four years ago piously proclaimed it was inappropriate to confirm a Supreme Court Justice in a presidential election year.

They should avoid foolish questions about Barrett's Catholicism, such as Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinPence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate McConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade MORE (D-Calif.) raised during the appeals court confirmation three years ago. It's hard to sublimate Senators' egos but it'd be good to bench Feinstein and Hawaii Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOvernight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Senate Democrats want hearing on Pentagon vaccine effort FCC reaffirms order rolling back net neutrality regulations MORE.

Senators like Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFederal appeals court rules Minnesota must separate late-arriving mail-in ballots Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Start focusing on veterans' health before they enlist MORE (D-Minn.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session MORE (D-R.I.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.Y.) can take the lead; the Biden campaign has to decide the political calculations of Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThere's still time to put Kamala Harris front and center Hillicon Valley: Biden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked | Majority of voters in three swing states saw ads on social media questioning election validity: poll | Harris more often the target of online misinformation The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Pollsters stir debate over Trump numbers MORE's role; she's a tough interrogator.

Trump has said he wants Barrett on the court to help decide any dispute over the presidential election. That poses a clear conflict. She should be pressured to promise a recusal in any such case.

If the election is legitimately close — I strongly doubt that — it could land in the lap of the Supreme Court. Without a Barrett recusal, count on her as well as Trump appointees Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughVermont secretary of State says Kavanaugh's correction still unsatisfactory Kavanaugh corrects opinion in voting case following Vermont official's objection The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchChief Justice Roberts is right on election decisions — except when he's wrong How recent Supreme Court rulings will impact three battleground states Supreme Court rejects second GOP effort to block mail-ballot extension in North Carolina MORE to, paraphrasing former Texas football coach Darrell Royal, dance with the guy who brung em — Trump.

If Democrats take the White House and Senate, there really is a compelling case to increase the size of the Court. To go back to a baseball metaphor, it's violating the norms of the game for a pitcher to purposefully bean (or hit with a pitch) the other team's star player. It's then incumbent to strike back. No one did that with more vengeance than the great Bob Gibson, who passed away last week.

The Republicans will get Amy Barrett on the High Court. They are cheating to do it and should pay a price.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts 2020 Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.