The much-anticipated first face-off between Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris and Trump’s pick to serve on the Supreme Court proceeded smoothly late Tuesday, despite Election Day looming just three weeks away.
Harris, known as one of the fiercest questioner on the Democrats’ side of the Judiciary Committee, has in the past, felled several Trump appointees -- including Attorney General William P. Barr -- with lines of questioning. But she refrained from taking an aggressive tone with Barrett, sticking mainly to questions about Barrett’s views on the Affordable Care Act, which is scheduled to come before the Supreme Court once again next month.
Barrett refused to divulge her views, pointing out that she had spent the entire day declining to address specific questions about past or upcoming cases, unless she had personally ruled or commented on them.
She also stressed that she had never been asked, nor offered, the president and his advisers any “commitment” about how she might rule in a future case. She also said she didn’t recall seeing Trump’s statements that he planned to nominate a justices who would repeal the health-care law prior to her nomination.
“I hope the committee would trust in my integrity,” Barrett said to Harris.
Other Democratic senators on the panel had questioned Barrett, challenging the nominee over why she would not answer questions about certain legal standards, and why she had not alerted the committee to a 2013 statement she signed disparaging the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade until a few days ago.
Barrett frequently cited the so-called “Ginsburg rule,” that dictates a judge cannot hint or preview their position on legal issues without undermining their impartiality and the judicial process.
Harris was the only senator to point out that the rule’s namesake, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, made an exception to that standard: she did express her support for reproductive rights.
Before her time was up, Harris asked Barrett if she thought about the people affected by her legal opinions, such as those dependent on the Affordable Care Act for their health care.
“Every case has consequences on people’s lives, so of course I do, in every case,” Barrett said. “It’s part of the judicial decision-making process.”
Due to the pandemic, Harris participated in the hearing remotely.