President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic and conservative midwestern judge who commentators compare to the late justice Antonin Scalia.
Barrett, nominated Saturday, lives in Indiana and is a judge on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, but has a spare political record. The 48-year-old, who clerked for Scalia, has only been on the appellate court since 2017.
A number of liberals have falsely attacked her for extremist views, and Republicans have warned Democrats not to make her religion a test.
“I will be mindful of who came before me,” Barrett said at the White House announcement. Ginsburg’s “life of public service serves as an example to us all,” she added.
Barrett’s confirmation hearings in the Senate will be closely watched by Jewish groups who are invested in the tensions between more liberal justices, who have tended to elevate discrimination protections over religious freedoms, and conservative justices, who tend to favor protecting the rights of religious individuals and institutions over discrimination protections.
The National Council of Jewish Women expressed concerns, noting that she has in the past questioned whether Roe V. Wade, the 1973 ruling upholding a woman’s right to an abortion, is settled precedent. Additionally, Barrett criticized the chief justice, John Roberts, for voting with the liberal minority in 2012 to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
“Her lack of respect for precedent is further called into question by her open criticism of Roe v. Wade, and her gross mischaracterization of the landmark ruling,” NCJW CEO Sheila Katz said in a statement. “Barrett is also on record in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and even criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for his decision to uphold the law in 2012.”
Jewish Women International said it was not enough to replace a woman judge with a woman judge.
“Unfortunately, Barrett has proven that she will not defend equality or fairness,” JWI CEO Meredith Jacobs said. “Her appointment is a direct threat to reproductive freedom, survivors of sexual assault, civil rights, health care access, racial justice, voting rights, gun safety, and legal protections for marginalized groups.”
Legacy Jewish civil rights defenders like the Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement have in amicus briefs favored discrimination protections while Orthodox groups tend to favor expanding protections for the religious.
Democrats are furious with Trump and with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for rushing through a confirmation so close to the election, especially after McConnell refused in 2016 to consider President Barack Obama’s proposed replacement for Scalia, Merrick Garland, who is Jewish, saying then it was inappropriate to nominate a justice in an election year. Obama nominated Garland in March of that year.
Republicans have a majority of 53 in the Senate, and only two Republicans have said they will be mindful of McConnell’s 2016 precedent and not vote to advance a judge until after a president is elected, meaning barring an unseen circumstance, Barrett will be confirmed.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who is the minority leader and who is Jewish, said his caucus would be united in opposing Barrett. He noted that Bader Ginsburg died on Rosh Hashanah. “At our Rosh Hashanah dinner, we heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, our daughter turned to her wife and said, ‘will our right to marry be constrained by this court?‘”
The Democratic Majority for Israel, a center-left pro-Israel advocacy group, alluded to a decision the court is due to decide soon on the Affordable Care Act.
“With the nomination of Judge Barrett, President Trump and Republicans come ever closer to achieving their long-desired goals for the Supreme Court: eliminating the Affordable Care Act and its protections for those with preexisting conditions; overturning Roe v. Wade and outlawing all abortions; and undermining democracy by deciding Trump is ‘reelected,’ regardless of how Americans vote,” the group wrote in a statement.