Indiana’s two senators are publicly backing their fellow Hoosier, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who lives in South Bend and is a top contender for President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Sen. Todd Young, a former congressman who has served as Indiana’s senior senator since his victory in 2016, introduced Barrett during her contentious confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017 after Trump selected her for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, a Chicago-based court with jurisdiction over Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. He has personally urged Trump to select her and his fellow senators to support her. Sen. Mike Braun, a successful businessman who defeated Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018, credits the Democrat’s decision to vote against now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh as one of the reasons he was able to unseat the incumbent.
Both Republican senators spoke with the Washington Examiner about their support for the longtime Notre Dame Law School professor for the highest court in the land.
“I had a very lengthy and thoughtful conversation with the president. He thinks incredibly highly of Amy Coney Barrett. I did not receive any intimation that he will ultimately select her to be the nominee, but I am aware that he thinks a lot of her professional qualifications and that’s, of course, why he included her on the list and why he has, from time to time, mentioned her publicly,” Young said on Wednesday. “I’ve also been making rounds to a number of colleagues here in the United States Senate and sharing with them my personal knowledge of Amy, her personal integrity, her seriousness of purpose, her method of jurisprudence, and her record of accomplishment on the bench.”
Amy Coney Barrett
Barrett, 48, a former clerk for conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, faced criticism about her Catholicism from multiple Democratic senators back in 2017. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's use of the pejorative “the dogma lives loudly within you" became a rallying cry for her supporters and solidified Barrett’s position as the top choice of many Republicans for the high court.
When Trump selected now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 to fill the vacancy from retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, he said of Barrett, “I’m saving her for Ruth’s seat,” a Republican Senate staffer told the Washington Examiner. The liberal icon died on Sept. 18 at age 87 following a battle with pancreatic cancer, and nearly all Republicans in the Senate have swiftly coalesced around the idea of holding hearings for and voting on whomever Trump selects, while Democrats, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, demand the process be put on hold until after the November election.
“I’m looking for someone who begins their constitutional analysis with our most fundamental and foundational legal document — the Constitution of the United States," Young said. "I’m also looking for someone who takes the doctrine of stare decisis very seriously but recognizes that if incredibly weak decisions have been made, then history and precedent dictates that those precedents be overturned. And lastly, I’m looking for someone who pointedly and intentionally does not prejudge any particular case based on hypotheticals put before them prior to having an opportunity to rule on said case … I have confidence that if it happens to be Amy Coney Barrett, she will pass the test with flying colors and she will be seated as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court.”
Young and Braun are not the only senators advocating the president to select someone from their home state. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida are pushing Trump to pick Judge Barbara Lagoa, a former Florida Supreme Court justice currently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Trump has said he plans to pick a woman for his third nominee to the Supreme Court and will make an announcement on Saturday. A senior administration official told the Washington Examiner that Barrett, who visited the White House and met with Trump on Monday, is well-liked by the president and many in the White House, with support from Vice President Mike Pence and chief of staff Mark Meadows, but noted that other judges, including Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing, also have supporters and that all the top choices are considered strong conservatives.
“With her, I believe she is an originalist, she’s a constitutionalist. When I look at her opinions, I have great confidence that those will be consistent into the Supreme Court,” Braun said of Barrett on Wednesday. “I have had a concern, to be honest, with recent conservative appointments that they maybe drifted from whatever we thought they were going to do once they get onto the Supreme Court. I think Supreme Court Justice Roberts would be an example, where he’s been less predictable, and I don’t ever notice where it seems like somebody gets on the court and grows more conservative, becomes more of a constitutionalist, does not legislate less from the bench than they were before. So those are all concerns — but Amy strikes me as one who has a strong record that shows that she will continue that on the Supreme Court.”
A Republican source told the Washington Examiner that Trump "saw the way that Amy Coney Barrett was mistreated" last time and is likely "spoiling for a fight." Barrett was confirmed to the appellate court by a 55-43 vote in the Senate three years ago.
“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that, you know, dogma and law are two different things?” Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told Barrett as she testified before the Senate panel, adding, “The law is totally different, and I think, in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois asked Barrett bluntly: “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”
“I am a Catholic, Sen. Durbin,” Barrett responded, adding, “if you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and I’m a faithful Catholic, I am — although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or religious belief would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge.” She made that point repeatedly throughout the hearing, stressing, “If there is ever a conflict between a judge’s personal conviction and a judge’s duty under the rule of law, that it is never, ever permissible for that judge to follow their personal convictions in a decision of a case rather than what the law requires."
Both Young and Braun were unhappy with how Barrett was treated the last time around.
“What happened to Amy Barrett over the course of that hearing was consistent with the Democratic playbook on Brett Kavanaugh. The trashing of her character, I thought, was grossly inappropriate. And it went beyond that, though, because we had the ranking member of the committee really invoking now-Judge Barrett’s religious convictions as a concern that she had related to judge Barrett’s ability to sit on one of the highest courts in the land,” Young said. “We don’t have a religious test in this country to occupy high public offices, and I think it’s very important that all of us push back against any effort to insert one into this process. So, Amy Barrett is just an incredibly talented legal scholar, one who approaches her craft with great integrity. She also happens to be a mother of seven children, two of whom are adopted. She is a lady who takes her Catholic faith very seriously, and it hurt me and offended the sensibilities I know of tens of millions of Americans when her religious faith was somehow called into question. She was impliedly too religious in her convictions, too steeped in her faith, too devout to sit on the court.”
Braun argued: “I think that your faith is part of what guides you, generally, and that you have to be objective enough to know when it needs to be separated — completely, if necessary — from the decision you’re making or when it might provide context when making a good decision. And I sense that in her.”
Barrett, born and raised in Louisiana, graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. After clerking for a federal judge and the Supreme Court and a couple of years at a private firm in the nation’s capital, she returned to her alma mater in South Bend in 2002, where she taught civil procedure, federal courts, constitutional law, and more for a decade and a half and where she still teaches part time. She has also written dozens of opinions and dissents on key issues, including gun rights, abortion, immigration, due process, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment.
“When Americans elected President Trump to office in 2016 and later expanded the Republican Senate majority in 2018, Amy Coney Barrett was exactly the type of jurist they had in mind,” Young said. “President Trump and Republican Senate candidates ran on a platform of nominating and confirming faithful constitutionalists to our federal benches, including the Supreme Court of the United States. So we have a mandate — in fact, I would go further and say we have a duty — to move forward with a committee hearing and to give President Trump’s nominee a vote, whomever it is, a fair hearing based on the opinions that the American people registered in 2016 and 2018.”