When President Barack Obama nominated a qualified federal judge to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, this editorial board wrote that the president had done his job and it was time that the Senate do its job.
What was our guiding principle then remains our guiding principle now.
Just as we thought that Judge Merrick Garland deserved a full hearing and a timely vote, the same can be said of Amy Coney Barrett, for whom the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings on Oct. 12, a pace that could put her on the bench before Election Day.
A federal appellate judge and Notre Dame law professor, Barrett, by all accounts, is a conservative with a compelling personal story and an impressive understanding of the law. Unless her confirmation hearing brings to light issues serious enough to question her suitability, she should be confirmed.
Barrett, 48, is the mother of seven children and a former law clerk to Scalia, whose “judicial philosophy is mine, too,” she has said. Barrett also was on President Donald Trump’s shortlist for the Supreme Court spot that went to Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
We understand that Senate Democrats still carry the bitter politics of 2016 when Republicans refused to grant a confirmation hearing to Garland, a centrist and former federal prosecutor. Denying him a hearing was shameful, rooted in partisan politics and was an affront to the nation’s democratic norms and traditions.
But this is precisely what we are defending now: the right of a president to nominate a Supreme Court justice and for the Senate to do its due diligence and hold a confirmation vote in a timely fashion. To do otherwise would deal another blow to faith in justice and the rule of law.
Democrats are likely to aggressively challenge Barrett, as is their right. It’s the obligation of the Senate to vet the nominee and advise and consent. That duty can only be performed if all senators engage in the process. The political reality is Barrett will likely be confirmed unless a serious allegation emerges, but that doesn’t absolve the rest of the Senate of its obligations. Our hope is that for the good of the court, if she is confirmed it’s not on a party-line vote, and that if a serious defect to her candidacy does emerge that the nation’s interests prevail over partisan politics.
Barrett, who Trump picked less than three years ago to serve as a federal appellate judge in Chicago, is the president’s third nominee for the Supreme Court, and if confirmed, would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
That may be a bitter pill for Democrats to swallow, but the confirmation process is not the place to settle political scores.