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Baker, Sununu do not sign GOP governors’ letter supporting Coney Barrett nomination to Supreme Court

Governor Charlie Baker has described the battle over Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the US Supreme Court as “100 percent, ends justify the means, classic Washington behavior.”
Governor Charlie Baker has described the battle over Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the US Supreme Court as “100 percent, ends justify the means, classic Washington behavior.”Stuart Cahill

Governors Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire were among four Republican state leaders who did not join their GOP counterparts in signing a Thursday letter pledging support for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin hearings Monday on Coney Barrett’s appointment to the nation’s top court. President Trump nominated the 48-year-old US Appeals Court judge shortly after the death of longtime Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month.

The letter to Senate leaders, posted to the Republican Governors Association website, was signed by 22 of the nation’s GOP governors, as well as the leaders of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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Coney Barrett, they said, carries a longstanding and well-respected reputation, and she has a proven record of safeguarding the interpretation of the law from partisan politics and “defending individual rights from government overreach.”

“As elected leaders of our states, we support a judicial philosophy like Judge Barrett’s that respects the roles of coequal branches of government and protects powers reserved to the states,” the GOP governors said. “Most importantly, Americans can trust Judge Barrett, because she will apply the text of the Constitution and statutes as written.”

The governors association did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Baker and Sununu, along with fellow Republican governors Phil Scott of Vermont and Larry Hogan of Maryland, did not sign the letter.

Shortly after Ginsburg’s death, Baker said in a statement that the Supreme Court was “too important to rush” and must be removed from partisan political infighting.

After honoring Ginsburg, Baker urged Trump and the Senate “to allow the American people to cast their ballots for President before a new justice is nominated or confirmed.”

On Sunday, a Baker spokeswoman referred the Globe to comments the governor made to reporters Sept. 23in Lowell , when Baker spoke out about the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice weeks before a presidential election and amid a deadly pandemic.

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The partisan battle over Coney Barrett’s nomination, Baker said while criticizing both Democrats and Republicans, is “100 percent, ends justify the means, classic Washington behavior.”

The Supreme Court is important, Baker said, “but nobody looks good with respect to how they’ve chosen to position themselves over the course of the last four years on this issue at a point in time when what I would really like to see them focus on is the pandemic.”

In a statement to New Hampshire Public Radio Saturday, a Sununu spokesman said Sununu didn’t sign the letter because he “has no role in the confirmation process.” The radio station reported Sununu had, in the past, signed letters backing the confirmation of other Supreme Court justices.

Democrats have widely blasted the move to appoint a new jurist to the high court in the weeks ahead of a presidential election, and have criticized Senate Republicans for hypocrisy: a 2016 Supreme Court nomination by former President Barack Obama was blocked on the grounds it was too close to an election.

Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said the current process will move forward, and has called Coney Barrett an exemplary judge and qualified nominee.

The appointment of Coney Barrett is widely viewed as a potential vote against the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

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Coney Barrett, in prepared remarks she is expected to deliver Monday, said the courts should leave policy decisions to the government’s political branches.

“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the People,” she said, according to a copy of her opening statement. “The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.