Amy Coney Barrett: Trump’s problematic Supreme Court pick 

V Nivedita | Updated on: Sep 29, 2020

US President Donald Trump walks with Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee for associate justice of the US Supreme Court, during an announcement ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on September 26, 2020. | Photo Credit: Bloomberg

Ever since US president Donald Trump announced his third pick to the US Supreme Court, the media has focussed a lot on Amy Coney Barrett’s conservative views. 


In an article in 2013, Barrett wrote that the previous Supreme Court judgements are not sacrosanct. She has written that these precedents cannot declare a ‘permanent victor’ on controversial topics. This is most likely to affect the Roe vs Wade verdict, which protects the liberty of pregnant women to choose to have an abortion, without excessive government restrictions.  

The provisions of this verdict are challenged in the top court periodically. As recently as June 29, 2020, the SCOTUS struck down a law from Louisiana which imposed some regulations abortion clinics, saying that the law violates the 1973 judgement. 

The Republican party has been trying to get this judgment overturned for decades. If Barrett is confirmed by the Senate, their long-standing agenda is likely to get fulfilled. If a case which challenges the Roe vs Wade verdict is taken up, the US Supreme court - with six conservative judges and three liberal judges - could overturn this 47-year-old judgement.  

The appointment of Barrett could also mean implications on insurance and healthcare. The apex court is scheduled to hear arguments against the Affordable Care Act in November this year. Barrett’s appointment could be the one factor that can strike down ACA – in 2017, she had questioned Chief Justice John Roberts’ role in upholding the Act.

She also has controversial opinions on gun laws, voting rights, workers rights and illegal immigration. 

Missed opportunity? 

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has come as an unforeseen gift to the Trump campaign. Trump administration, now, has the unique opportunity to do something that the Republicans wanted for a long time – fill the Supreme Court with conservatives, and tip the ideological battle for the top court in their favour. This way, they will have an edge over certain issues, like abortion and gun laws, for decades, even if they are not in power. If one takes into account the current rush to fill the vacancy, it almost seems like the GOP is almost sure that they are going to lose the presidency as well as the Senate.

Political pundits believe that appointing a conservative to the top court will help Trump regain the support of some Republicans who are not satisfied with his response to the coronavirus pandemic. However, he might have made the wrong move is selecting Barrett.

In a bid to boost his support in Latino community, many pundits thought that Trump would nominate federal appellate judge Barbara Lagoa, who hails from Florida. In 2016, he won 28 per cent of the Latino vote, and now polls show that he can win 30 per cent of the Latino vote nationally, one of the key demographic where he outperforms Democrat Joe Biden. A recent poll by NBC News/Marist shows that Trump can win 50 per cent of the Hispanic vote in Florida, which is a key battleground State in this election. 

Lagoa, who is Cuban American, could have enthused Latino voters not only in Lagoa’s home state, but also in Colorado, Nevada and Arizona.  

The threat

Trump’s move to appoint Barrett might even backfire on him. According to a poll by Washington Post-ABC News shows that 57 per cent of those surveyed said that the winner of the presidential election and a Senate vote next year should fill the vacant SC post. 

After Justice Ginsburg's death, the Democrats raised more than $90 million in a day. Money poured into key Senate races and in key battleground states. Biden, who already enjoys a cash surplus, can energise his base as abortion rights, gun laws and healthcare are existential issues for the Democrats.

In the Senate, Democrats are unlikely to stop  Barret's nomination, but they are likely to raise these issues in her confirmation hearings. It remains to be seen how hard they will attack her because Biden wants to reach out to moderate Republicans, who are likely to favour her.

Published on September 29, 2020
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