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 BarrettBiden's 'Come on, man' defense will not fly on religious freedom A politicized Supreme Court? That was the point Solid majority believes Supreme Court rulings based more on politics than law  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 GinsburgKatie Couric dismisses early coverage of book as 'strange, willful misinterpretation' Katie Couric says she felt 'betrayed' by Lauer after sexual assault allegations Couric defends editing of RBG interview 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 GarlandOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — US 'deeply alarmed' by reports of military takeover in Sudan Prohibit the actions of extremism, but bear with the rhetoric House Republicans call on Garland to rescind school board memo MORE who was nominated by Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden ahead of pace Trump set for days away from White House: CNN The Senate is setting a dangerous precedent with Iron Dome funding Obama says change may be coming 'too rapidly' for many 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 Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California 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 HironoDemocrats face critical 72 hours Democrats look for plan B on filibuster Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program MORE.

Senators like Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar'Facebook Papers' turn up heat on embattled social media platform Omar, Klobuchar lead charge seeking Congressional Gold Medal for Prince Klobuchar: 'Facebook knew' it was hurting communities MORE (D-Minn.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseBipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Nations plan to pump oil despite net zero promises MORE (D-R.I.) and Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) can take the lead; the Biden campaign has to decide the political calculations of Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisObama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech Biden's safe-space CNN town hall attracts small audience, as poll numbers plummet 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 KavanaughLocked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Why Latinos need Supreme Court reform Feehery: A Republican Congress is needed to fight left's slide to autocracy MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchAll eyes on Garland after Bannon contempt vote Locked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Justices weigh request for information on CIA's post-9/11 torture program 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.