On Senate Floor, Portman Praises Nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, Calls for Fair and Thorough Confirmation Process
WASHINGTON, DC – Last night on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman discussed the recent nomination by President Trump of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. He noted her nomination was consistent with Senate precedent when the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party during an election year. In addition, Portman expressed his belief that Judge Barrett will prove well-qualified to capably fill the role as a nonpartisan judge who does not legislate from the bench. Highlighting her impressive background as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a law professor at Notre Dame Law School, and a working parent to seven children, Portman said that he looks forward to his one-on-one meeting with Judge Barrett as part of the evaluation process by the Senate. In addition, Portman urged his Democratic colleagues not to malign Judge Barrett’s character in an attempt to discredit her from the court the way they did to Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“I’d like to talk tonight about the nomination for Amy Coney Barrett for the vacant Supreme Court Associate Justice seat. I think the president made a great pick. From all indications she is an impressive lawyer, judge, and a person. We’ve already begun the process of looking at Judge Barrett. She’s been meeting with members of the Senate. I look forward to my meeting with her. The precedent for moving forward with this nomination at this time is crystal clear.
“During an election year, when one party holds the presidency and the Senate, in the entire history of our country, the Senate has confirmed the nominee in every single case except one. That one exception, by the way, was somebody who withdrew because of ethics concerns that both Republicans and Democrats had. So the precedent is very clear -- when you’ve got the president and the Senate of the same party, we confirm. In contrast, when power has been divided and a Supreme Court vacancy arises during an election year, the Senate precedent is not to confirm the nominee. In fact, the last time a confirmation occurred with the president and Senate of different parties was in the 1880’s. That distinction is what separates now from 2016.
“Back then I wrote an op-ed and I quote ‘Some argue that the American people have already spoken and I agree that they have, both the president and the Senate majority were fairly and legitimately elected. The last time we spoke as a nation two years ago the American people elected a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate in an election that was widely viewed as an expression that people wanted the check on the power of the presidency. The president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court Justice,’ I said, ‘But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee.’ In other words, in keeping with the precedent that I laid out earlier, the Republican Senate did what the Democratic Senates had traditionally done with the Republican president’s nominee.
“The comments I made in 2016 were all in that context of divided government. In fact, in that same op-ed, I warned that divided government is not, and I quote, ‘The time to go through what would be a highly contentious process with a very high likelihood that the nominee would not be confirmed.’ I did not believe that Justice Garland would have been confirmed. I thought that was not a good result to have that kind of highly contentious process for the institution of the Supreme Court or for the Senate. Now of course we’ve got a very different situation. We’ve got a president and a Senate of the same party. In fact, we have a Republican Senate that was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2018 in part to support well-qualified judges nominated by the president. “No one can disagree that Judge Barrett has an impressive legal background. As I’ve looked into her background both as a law professor at Notre Dame, where three times she won the Distinguished Teaching Award, and of course in her record as a Judge on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Judge Barrett has been highly regarded for her work in the legal world. By the way, she’s been highly regarded from folks across a wide variety of legal philosophies. They say she’s smart. They say she understands the law. They say she’s well-qualified.
“In fact, the American Bar Association said that about her when she was nominated and successfully confirmed here in the United States Senate to the Circuit Court, which of course is the second level, right below the Supreme Court. So she has already gone through the process here. She’s been confirmed here. The American Bar Association looked at her and said she is well-qualified, which is their highest rating. So my hope is that there will not be any argument about whether she is well-qualified or not because she clearly is, has an impressive legal background.
“To me though, her personal story is as impressive as her legal career. After earning a full ride to Notre Dame Law and graduating first in her class, she earned a prestigious clerkship on the Supreme Court for Justice Antonin Scalia. She then married Jesse Barrett, a classmate of hers at Notre Dame and raised seven wonderful children, two adopted from Haiti. She’s still raising them, all while advancing her own extraordinary career in the law. Frankly, I think she’s a great model for working parents everywhere.
“And as we heard during her last confirmation to the Circuit Court right here on the floor of the United States Senate when we talked about her, she is admired as a good person. Colleagues at Notre Dame, her students at Notre Dame, others from across the political spectrum have called her fair. They have called her compassionate. They said she’s a good person.
“Apart from those legal qualifications and the character, I think it’s fair for the Senate to insist on knowing a judge’s judicial philosophy. My view is that it’s the role of the Supreme Court Justice to fairly and impartially apply the law and protect our rights guaranteed by the Constitution, but not to advance their personal preferences or even their policy goals. That’s not the job of a judge. They’re not supposed to be like us, legislators. They’re not supposed to legislate from the bench. They’re supposed to follow the Constitution, follow precedent.
“It’s no understatement to say that Judge Barrett is being interviewed for one of the most important jobs in the country, and that’s why it’s important we do get a fair and accurate picture of her judicial philosophy. And you know what? Her judicial philosophy lines up with what I think is right for the Court, but more importantly, what most Americans think is right for the Court. As an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal put it recently, Judge Barrett’s body of work puts her, ‘At the center of the mainstream consensus on the judge’s role as an arbiter, not a lawmaker, who abides by the duty to enforce the law as written.’ That’s her record. That’s the philosophy that she has talked about as she was confirmed by this body just a couple years ago.
“While I know that judicial nominations have become incredibly partisan around here. My hope is that Judge Barrett will be given a thorough and a fair evaluation from both sides of the aisle. To that end, I hope my Democratic colleagues will at least meet with Judge Barrett and engage with her on any concerns they might have, rather than dismiss her nomination out of hand. And I hope that those who end up opposing her will be able to do so without resorting to the kind of character assassination that we saw with Judge Kavanaugh.
“I look forward to the four days of Judiciary Committee hearings that have already been announced by Chairman Graham. This will be giving every member of the committee plenty of time to ask questions, express their views, to have the dialogue that they’re looking for. I will be joining millions of Americans in watching those proceedings. I will also look forward to my one-on-one meeting with her. This will give me a chance to further assess Judge Barrett’s character, temperament, and legal philosophy. My hope is that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will also take the opportunity to fairly review her character, her judicial temperament, and her legal qualifications, which are so impressive, and do so in a respectful manner.”