The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Barrett confirmation hearing day one Courts aren’t designed to ‘right every wrong’ in society, Barrett says in opening

The Senate Judiciary Committee began an acrimonious Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 12. (Video: The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett introduced herself to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon, vowing to apply the law “as written” and telling lawmakers she believed courts were not “designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”

View live politics updates

“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people,” Barrett said in her opening statement. “The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

Earlier in the day, senators clashed over the nominee. Democrats stuck to a tight script, telling personal stories about constituents who benefited from the Affordable Care Act and warning that Barrett’s ascendance to the high court could spell the end for the landmark health-care law. Republicans called on Democrats to focus on what they said were Barrett’s exceptional qualifications for the job, not how she might rule on key cases.

Where were you on election night 2016? The Washington Post wants to hear your story.

The hearings come 22 days before the election, with Senate Republicans intent on installing the conservative judge on the court.

If confirmed, Barrett would replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Republicans defended their decision to move swiftly to confirm Barrett, saying the situation was different than 2016, when GOP lawmakers blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland.
  • Barrett is expected to pledge in her opening remarks that she will remove politics from her legal reasoning as a future justice, stressing that “policy decisions” need to be made by Congress and the White House, not the courts.
  • A slight majority of American voters oppose holding confirmation hearings now, although opposition has eased since Trump announced his choice to replace Ginsburg, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
  • More than a dozen protesters calling on senators to reject Barrett’s confirmation were arrested Monday morning moments before the hearing began. About 8:45 a.m., anti-Barrett protesters were handcuffed and removed from the doorway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where a sit-in was underway.
  • Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, echoed the health-care message of other Senate Democrats and warned that confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court would precipitate the demise of the Affordable Care Act.