Barrett vows fair approach as justice, Democrats skeptical

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Four legendary Colorado Republicans, all women, say the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court is about rights, not politics.

The president and the Senate have the right to pick and confirm a nominee, so Barrett should have the ability to become a conservative woman on the highest court, says a letter to Colorado's U.S. senators, Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet.

The letter is signed by:

  • Gale Norton, the former U.S. secretary of the Interior under George W. Bush.
  • Jane Norton, the former Colorado lieutenant governor under Bill Owens (and no relation to the secretary).
  • Lola Spradley, the former speaker of the Colorado House.
  • Nancy Spence, an education leader and former state House and Senate member.

They are co-chairing the Colorado Confirm Amy effort.

Hearings for the replacement for the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg began Monday and continue today, exactly three weeks before the election.

Democrats are making an issue of Republicans refusing to hold a hearing for President Obama's nominee for eight months before the election.

What members of their party did four years ago shouldn't bear on President Trump's pick, the Colorado women state in the letter.

"The precedent regarding Supreme Court nominations in the final year of a President’s term is based on routine politics: if the presidency and the senate are controlled by the same party, nominations are confirmed; when they are controlled by different parties, the majority of nominations are not confirmed," they said. "Confirming Judge Barrett would be consistent with longstanding precedent."

In her first day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Barrett said Americans “deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written.” 

Read a breakdown of notable cases and quotes involving Barrett as compiled by the Associated Press by clicking here

Senate Republicans, including Colorado's Cory Gardner, have to manage the politics of the pick in combination with what's expected to be a wild three weeks of campaigning with the White House and GOP majority of the Senate in the balance.

The committee chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is in a tight race to win reelection in South Carolina. On Monday he called her a "slam dunk" to be seated.

Signs of Republican overreach and politics on the right could give Democrats, were they to win big next month, the mandate with voters to increase the size of the court and obliterate the conservative majority.

Democrats, also, walk a line of jeopardizing their intent to win the election before dealing with the courts, given that the confirmation is likely already decided by the majority.

On Monday, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former Democratic presidential candidate, was direct.

"Yes Judge," she said to Barrett. "I think this hearing is a sham. I think it shows real messed-up priorities from the Republican Party."

She added, "This isn't Donald Trump's country."

The Colorado Republican leaders also, out of respect for Barrett, say the confirmation should happen before the Nov. 3 election. Republicans have the votes to do that. 

"This period after the election is often referred to as a 'lame duck' period," the letter continues. "We urge you to vote on confirmation before the election so that, if she is confirmed, Justice Barrett will not be referred to as a “'lame duck justice.' She deserves better than that, the Court deserves better than that, and the American people deserve better than that."

In an interview with Colorado Politics on Tuesday morning, Gale Norton agreed that the partisan politics has overtaken the judicial process, and that shouldn't tarnish Barrett.

The question for any justice, right or left, is whether they can rule without interjecting their personal bias.

Barrett worked as a federal appellate court judge for three years, appointed by President Trump and confirmed with bipartisan support. Ginsburg sat on the appeals court for 13, and Colorado's Neil Gorsuch served 11. Barrett worked for 15 years in academia.

She also clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, which gave Gale Norton assurance. Scalia was one of the court's most conservative justices, often seen as a balance to the liberal Ginsburg.

"As for a lawyer who's familiar with that aspect of judicial philosophy," I'm very comfortable with her," Norton said Tuesday morning.

She also has been affiliated with Christian organizations that trouble activists on the left who say Barrett will bring and anti-abortion bias to Supreme Court.

Asked if she would feel differently in the nominee was a Democrat who had a history with organizations on the left, the former Bush Cabinet member said it would depend on the nominee. 

"That would be a different approach," Norton said. "There would be attorneys who be involved with the ACLU who nonetheless view the role of the judiciary as being to abide by the Constitution and abide by the law, as opposed to imposing their own preferences.

"I wouldn't at all necessarily say that being involved with the ACLU is disqualifying."  

This story was updated to correct Jane Norton's bio.

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