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Trump U.S. Supreme Court nominee Barrett says she is 'not on a mission' to destroy Obamacare

Politics Oct 14, 2020 12:06AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate holds confirmation hearing for Barrett to be Supreme Court justice in Washington 2/2

By Lawrence Hurley, Patricia Zengerle and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, said on Tuesday she gave no commitments to the White House on how she would rule on Obamacare or election-related cases and declined to say if she believed landmark rulings legalizing abortion and gay marriage were properly decided.

During 11 hours of questioning on the second day of her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Barrett opted not to say whether she would step aside from taking part in a major Obamacare case to be argued on Nov. 10 or in any disputes arising from the Nov. 3 election - as Democrats have requested.

The marathon session gave the conservative U.S. appellate judge a chance to respond to Democrats who oppose her because they fear she will cast a decisive vote in striking down the 2010 healthcare law formally called the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

"I am not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act," Barrett said. "I'm just here to apply the law and adhere to the rule of law."

While Democrats were persistent in their questioning, the hearing retained a respectful tone and Barrett remained even-tempered while nimbly sidestepping questions on her views on abortion, LGBT rights, gun control and voting rights.

In the Obamacare case, Trump and Republican-led states are seeking to invalidate the law. Barrett said the case centered on a different legal issue from two previous Supreme Court rulings that upheld Obamacare that she has criticized.

Senator Kamala Harris, who is Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate, was not satisfied with Barrett's answers, saying Americans were fearful that Obamacare would be overturned in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

"Republicans are scrambling to confirm this nominee as fast as possible because they need one more Trump judge on the bench before Nov. 10 to win and strike down the entire Affordable Care Act," said Harris, a Judiciary Committee member.

The law, signed by Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, has enabled millions of Americans to obtain medical coverage.

Trump has asked the Senate, controlled by his fellow Republicans, to confirm Barrett before Election Day. Trump has said he expects the Supreme Court to decide the election's outcome as he faces Biden.

Barrett said no one at the White House sought a commitment from her on how she would rule on that or any other issue.

In declining to commit to stepping aside on politically charged cases in light of her nomination so near an election and comments made by Trump on the issues, Barrett said she would follow rules giving justices the final say on recusal amid questions about impartiality.

Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority, making Barrett's confirmation a virtual certainty. If confirmed, Barrett, 48, would give conservatives a 6-3 Supreme Court majority. She is Trump's third Supreme Court nominee.

The hearing resumes at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Wednesday.

ABORTION RULING

Abortion rights advocates fear Barrett would vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Asked about the ruling, Barrett said she would consider the usual factors on whether to overturn a precedent.

But Barrett indicated Roe v. Wade was not a "super-precedent" that could never potentially be overturned.

"I'm answering a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates Roe does not fall in that category. Scholars across the spectrum say that doesn't mean that Roe should be overruled, but descriptively it does mean it is not a case that everyone has accepted," Barrett said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the panel's top Democrat, asked Barrett whether she agreed with her mentor, the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

After Barrett sidestepped, Feinstein told her that "it's distressing not to get a straight answer."

Barrett, a devout Catholic and a favorite of religious conservatives, said she could set aside her religious beliefs in making judicial decisions.

She would not say whether she agreed with Scalia that the 2015 Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide was wrongly decided. She said she would not discriminate on the basis of "sexual preference," prompting Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono to chastise her for using an "offensive and outdated term."

Barrett also declined to comment specifically on whether presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power if they lose an election. Trump created a furor in September when he refused to make that commitment.

"To the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it and don't want to express a view," Barrett told Democratic Senator Cory Booker.

Prompted by Booker again to comment, she said: "One of the beauties of America from the beginning of the republic is that we have had peaceful transfers of power."

Asked about George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police in May in an incident that triggered widespread protests, Barrett called the issue "very, very personal for my family" because among her seven children, two - adopted from Haiti - are Black. Barrett said she and one of her daughters, Vivian, cried together after seeing the video.

Trump nominated Barrett to a lifetime post on the court on Sept. 26 to succeed the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The four-day hearing is a key step before a full Senate vote due by the end of October on Barrett's confirmation.

Trump U.S. Supreme Court nominee Barrett says she is 'not on a mission' to destroy Obamacare
 

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Comments (17)
Jim Robertson
Jim Robertson Oct 15, 2020 1:19PM ET
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of all the presidents in my lifetime, only Obama promoted racial divide.
mark johnson
mark johnson Oct 14, 2020 12:11AM ET
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Factually speaking obamacare did not give healthcare to “millions” as stated above. likewise, it did not give “affordable” healthcare to millions. Of the 27 million uninsured at the time, 12million made the choice to decline insurance for personal reasons. So about 18m people may have wanted insurance. In the first 18months of obamacare about 20million insured lost their insurance due to the new law. This does not include obamacare’s specific affect on Medicaid users who became ineligible for Medicaid because of the law and then became uninsured and had to buy a plan with money they disnt have for plans that had less coverage.
Bryan Cooper
Bryan Cooper Oct 13, 2020 10:51PM ET
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who raises all those kids she is so proud of? the older ones raise the younger ones? even if they are in school all day she should be at home raising them instead of trying to be a supreme court jjustice. tradition in her case is like a gun barrel twisted around and pointing to herself.
Tong Nguyen
Tong Nguyen Oct 13, 2020 10:51PM ET
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You are male chauvinist when saying she or woman should stay home to raise kids. Ridiculous!
Odum Francis
Odum Francis Oct 13, 2020 10:51PM ET
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Your parents should be ashamed of you.
Brady Murray
Brady Murray Oct 13, 2020 9:46PM ET
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Since Obamacare my insurance costs and medical out of pocket doubled. when Trump rid us of the unconstitutional mandate and allowed fkr High Deductible plans my costs were reduced by 25 percent. MAGA!
Michael Natan
Michael Natan Oct 13, 2020 9:12PM ET
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I just wonder who was raising her seven children? As I have stated many times before, I am netiher a Republican nor a Democrat. Just someone who is looking out for the American people. It’s honestly tough for me to believe someone with seven children would have actually had the time to raise them? I doubt how responsible she is.
Brandon Son
Brandon Son Oct 13, 2020 9:12PM ET
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wow
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Oct 13, 2020 6:40PM ET
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time will be the ultimate proof, ...
Jason Zou
Jason Zou Oct 13, 2020 5:16PM ET
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You may not have agenda of such, but you surely have your personal opinions of such, which may affect how you would perform the work and so you ought to profess to the people, not play cheap words game to divert the point, for them to examine.
Bud Nick
Bud Nick Oct 13, 2020 2:26PM ET
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Too bad the parent's of the people that are pro ****didn't think the way their children do now because we would not have to debate **** as these folks would not be here
David David
David9 Oct 13, 2020 11:39AM ET
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She failed....no way she can go through...
Jimbo Krackin
Jimbo Krackin Oct 13, 2020 11:10AM ET
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good for her
 
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