U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett delivers her opening statement at her Senate confirmation hearing. Judge Barrett: "Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. The policy decisions and value judgements of government must be made by the political branches, elected by and accountable to the people."
Judge Amy Coney Barrett vowed to fulfill her duties "faithfully and impartially" if she is confirmed to the Supreme Court, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday for the first of four days of confirmation hearings as Republicans move to install her on the high court before November's election.
"Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society. But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life," Barrett said in her opening statement. "The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try."
Barrett took no questions on the first day of hearings, which was instead dominated by opening statements by the 22 members of the committee. Democrats and Republicans spent the morning and early afternoon trading accusations and arguments about Barrett's ideological views, and the propriety of confirming her just weeks before the election.
The ongoing pandemic loomed over the proceedings, especially given a recent coronavirus
outbreak among GOP senators who attended a White House event that is linked to dozens of infections. Several lawmakers, including vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and Republican Thom Tillis, who recently tested positive, appeared remotely to deliver their opening statements.
Barrett, who would be the third Supreme Court justice nominated by President Trump, sat stoically for hours as the senators on the committee were each given 10 minutes to make remarks.
Republicans defended their decision to move forward with Barrett's nomination and pursue a vote to confirm her before the election. Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee's chairman, said the Senate "is doing its duty constitutionally." The GOP lawmakers also defended Barrett, who is Catholic, from perceived attacks on her faith, insisting her religious beliefs should be off limits, although no Democrats mentioned her faith in Monday's hearing.
Democrats, meanwhile, painted Barrett's nomination as Republicans' latest attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could strike down the law one week after the November election, and Democrats highlighted Barrett's past criticism of Supreme Court rulings upholding the law to portray her nomination as a threat to the health care of millions of Americans.
The hearings will resume Tuesday, when senators will begin two rounds of questioning that will stretch into Wednesday. Outside witnesses will testify in support or opposition of Barrett's nomination on Thursday.