Amy Coney Barret, a 48-year-old Catholic and member of a controversial Christian organization, will replace the late progressive Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The court could review key rulings.
The remains of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg have not yet been buried with her husband in Arlington Cemetery, but President Donald Trump already announced this Saturday that his candidate to replace the most popular justice in the Supreme Court of Justice will be ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barret, an antithesis of the progressive judge who passed away on Friday.
If approved by the Senate – it is discounted that this will be the Republican dominance of the upper house -, The highest court in the United States will have a large majority of the right (6 to 3), a balance that could unleash changes on important issues such as the right to abortion, the environment, immigration, homosexual marriage, among others. Furthermore, the Court may have a decisive role in the upcoming presidential elections on November 3, which could end up being defined in a judicial dispute.
Trump announced that Coney Barret would replace Ginsburg, popularly known as “RGB,” a feminist icon who died of cancer at the age of 87 and who always leaned in favor of equality between men and women, the defense of the rights of the LGBT community, abortion and the limit to arms.
Barret, born in New Orleans, but currently serving as an appeals judge in the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit, will be, with 48 years, the youngest judge of the high court, which has life positions. She is a devout Catholic, married and mother of 7 children, two of whom were adopted in Haiti, and due to her religious convictions she is a fervent opponent of abortion. She is a member of an ultra-conservative Christian group known as People of Praise, an organization that, according to various media, promotes the idea that a married woman must delegate authority within the home to her husband, who in turn are guided by spiritual advisers or “leaders” in their life decisions, while members are expected to donate 5% of their income to the organization.
Barret worked for more than 10 years with the late Justice Antonin Scalia and, like him, defines himself as a “Originalist” The “Textualist”, which means that it seeks to strictly abide by the text of the Constitution and tries to apply in its sentences the original intention of its architects in 1787. It does not admit interpretations adapted to the new times.
Chuck Schumer, Senate Democratic Minority Leader, said Barrett “Stand up for all the things that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was against”. She added: “Many things that the vast majority of the American people do not agree on.”
With the approval of Barret by the Senate, the Supreme Court, which had a conservative majority of 5 to 4 and (although moderate conservative President John Roberts sometimes voted with the more progressive sector), would go to 6 to 3 in fundamental rulings that could soon be revised by pressure from the right such as the Roe Vs Wade of 1973, which establishes the right to abortion, and others that endorse gay marriage, climate change, the protection of workers and immigrants, experts estimate . Affirmative action policies in education and some rights enshrined in the health law known as “Obamacare” could also be affected.
This speedy appointment is a very controversial decision a less than 40 days before the presidential elections, but Trump sought to seal the majority in court and at the same time offer a great gesture to religious sectors who support him and who were fundamental in achieving his triumph in 2016. In a country where 60% of the inhabitants go to Mass at least once a month, evangelical Christians, for example, are 25% of the US voters. 81% of them voted for Trump in the last elections and gave him vital victories in Florida and Michigan.
The Democrats – and an express request from Ginsburg before his death – demanded that the discussion about the vacancy be frozen, until after the elections, which will define whether or not Trump remains in the White House. There was a very immediate precedent in that regard: In 2016, Republicans opposed voting for a Barack Obama nominee to replace the late Conservative Justice Scalia, arguing that it was an election year.
The position of the Democrats is shared by the majority of Americans. According to a Washington Post / ABC poll revealed this Saturday, 57% of those consulted – compared to 38% – oppose confirming the new magistrate before the elections.
But, pragmatic at last, the Republicans in the Senate ignored the will of the judge and the people, they turned their arguments from 4 years ago and said that they will speed up the times to vote very soon: they do not want to take the risk to lose the presidential election and for the Democrat Biden to nominate the new magistrate, who would obviously be a liberal rather than a conservative. Confirmation requires a simple majority and Republicans outnumber Democrats 53-47 in the Senate.
Trump, who already appointed two justices to the Supreme Court during his tenure, then rushed to initiate the process to fill Ginsburg’s seat and within days he bowed to Barret. While he claims he will win the applause of his party rank and file, some Republican strategists fear some of Barret’s positions will scare off not just Democrats. but moderate and independent voters they would have preferred someone less radical.