Just days after President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the first questions she will face is from Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, about that supremely high court seat that went vacant in June.
So it would be significant if, as expected, the Indiana Republican becomes the first senator to hold an up-or-down confirmation hearing on Judge Barrett. Even if the No. 2 Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, immediately moves forward, that does not mean the Barrett hearing could quickly turn into the battles of health care or immigration that the Senate embarked on in the final months of the Obama administration. In part, that’s because of issues that could cloud Judge Barrett’s conservative credentials, even among the right-wing jurists he has nominated. But in part it’s because the job of confirming judicial nominees, done on narrow party lines, is very different than changing health care or immigration.
Judge Barrett’s nomination has been widely praised, including in some Republican quarters, as one of the most solidly conservative in history. For starters, she is not a circuit judge, like her predecessors from Sen. McCain’s home state. Instead, she has been a federal appellate judge for three years. Among other qualifications, she has taught constitutional law for the past three years at Notre Dame Law School, far from the vortex of political struggle.
She has also been the circuit’s most strident opponent of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.
Beyond that, some senators have raised concerns about her views on religion, about her work at the Catholic University of America, and about her campaign to preserve the placement of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.