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Trump’s reported Supreme Court pick Judge Amy Coney Barrett stirs sharp reaction

Judge Amy Coney Barrett in 2019.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett in 2019.SAMUEL CORUM/NYT

The news that President Trump plans to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court drew swift reaction ahead of an official announcement Saturday, with conservatives acclaiming a jurist they consider a champion of the Constitution and liberals assailing her views on abortion, health care, labor rights, and other pivotal issues.

Trump plans to name Barrett, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, in a White House ceremony Saturday afternoon, according to The New York Times and other publications who cited allies close to the president. The Times noted that no decision is final until Trump makes the announcement, but that he has not interviewed anyone else for the nomination.”

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Battle lines were quickly drawn for a bitter Senate confirmation process that Republicans are set to win because they control the chamber. The reactions, particularly from the left, reflected the scalding partisanship that has gripped the nation on the eve of a presidential election, and they unfolded on the day that the body of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last Friday, lay in state at the Capitol.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, part of the chamber’s Republican leadership, praised the judge on Twitter as a “legal trailblazer” who “has maintained the importance of an independent judiciary that interprets the law & Constitution as written, operating free from political pressure.”

But Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, labeled her “a far-right, extremist judge.” His statement and an equally caustic one by Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group that has challenged administration policies in court, give an indication of the rancor that lies ahead as the confirmation process advances.

“Judge Barrett is an ideological fanatic who lacks the temperament to rule fairly in the interests of all Americans,” Hartl said in his statement. “Her slim judicial record shows that she’s hostile to the environment and will slam shut the courthouse doors to public interest advocates, to the delight of corporate polluters.”

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And a statement from Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, which advocates for the empowerment of women of color, highlighted a quote calling Barrett “a detriment to our democracy.”

Other organizations also strongly opposed the choice, though with somewhat less heated language.

“Amy Coney Barrett on the court would not represent the majority of voters who believe climate change is real and want to see action,” Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “And her positions on access to justice would make it even harder for communities of color to seek justice for repeated and targeted environmental harms.”

Democratic-aligned groups argued that the selection of Barrett posed an existential threat to the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights.

Christian Nunes, the president of the National Organization of Women, said in a statement that Trump “and the Senate Republicans want to steal another seat on the Supreme Court so that Amy Coney Barrett can help repeal Roe and shred the Affordable Care Act -- but not before she votes with a new, ultra conservative majority to validate an election he intends to steal.”

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, didn’t comment on Trump telling associates that Barrett was his choice. Most congressional Democrats remained silent on Friday night.

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Markey, whose embrace of progressive causes recently helped him survive a strong primary challenge by Representative Joe Kennedy, said he would do everything he could to block the confirmation and push Democrats to end the filibuster and expand the size of the court if she is confirmed.

“Her record as a judge and her own words establish that she will be a clear and present danger to reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, voting rights, civil rights, and many more,” Markey added.

Conservatives both in and out of government expressed delight over the prospect of a Barrett nomination.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, pointed out that Barrett was a fellow Louisianian and “she’s going to make our state and nation proud.”

The Club for Growth, which promotes conservative economic policies, said Trump will have nominated in Barrett “an extraordinary judge to the Supreme Court.” In a statement, the group pointed out that the high court would be taking up questions about the expansion of government, and whether federal agencies “should have free reign to enact arbitrary rules without Congressional approval.

‘Principled Originalist’

“Judge Barrett is a principled originalist, and we have every confidence that she will rule appropriately on these vital issues,” the group said in a statement, urging her swift confirmation.

And Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary, remarked on Twitter: “If liberals actually cared about empowering women, they’d be applauding Judge Amy Coney Barrett - a working mom with impeccable legal credentials - not denigrating her with bigoted attacks on her Christian faith.”

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