Barrett Won’t Commit to Recusing from Election Disputes

The setting sun shines on the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is vowing to bring no “agenda” to the court, batting back senators’ questions Tuesday on gun rights and the November election, insisting she would take a conservative approach to the law but decide cases as they come.

“Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda… and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett said at the second day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The 48-year-old appellate court judge, nominated by President Donald Trump and on track for quick confirmation before the Nov. 3 election,  declined to commit to recusing herself from any cases arising from that election.

“I can’t offer an opinion on recusal without short-circuiting that entire process,” she said.

Barrett was on Capitol Hill for a second day of hearings, the mood quickly shifting to a more confrontational tone from opening day. She was grilled in 30-minute segments by Democrats strongly opposed to Trump’s nominee, yet virtually powerless to stop her. Republicans are rushing her to confirmation before Election Day.

Trump has said he wants the ninth member on the court to handle any cases that may arise. But Barrett said it would be a “gross violation” of judicial independence to make a commitment on how she’d rule. She insisted she has not spoken to the president or his team about how she would handle such cases.

The Senate, led by Trump’s Republican allies, is pushing Barrett’s nomination to a quick vote before Nov. 3, and ahead of the the latest challenge to the “Obamacare” Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court is to hear a week after the election.

Barrett, a former law professor, described herself as taking a conservative, originalist approach to the Constitution – “text as text” — and believes a judge “doesn’t infuse her own meaning into it.”

The Indiana judge, accompanied by her family, told the senators that while she admires the late Justice Antonin Scalia, her mentor for whom she once clerked, she would bring her own approach to the high court. “You would not be getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett,” she said.

Republicans also hope to seat Barrett quickly enough to hear any legal challenges after the election. Democrats are demanding that she pledge not to take part in any election case, but she has made no such commitment.

One of the two Republicans on the panel who tested positive for COVID-19, Sen. Thom Tillis, joined the committee for the first time Tuesday, after ending quarantine.

Barring a dramatic development, Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm Barrett to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. She would be Trump’s third justice.

Underscoring the Republicans’ confidence, Graham set an initial committee vote on the nomination for Thursday, even before the last day of hearings wrapped, which would allow final approval by the panel for one week later and a vote for confirmation by the full Senate on Oct. 26.

Democrats already were enraged that Republicans are moving so quickly, having refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee after Scalia’s death in February 2016, well before that year’s election.