Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings have concluded, and it’s now up to the Senate to vote on her nomination to the Supreme Court on Monday. But with the hearings behind us, it’s time we take a hard look at the Democrats’ embarrassing display of disrespect for the SCOTUS that was on show during the hearings.
Our nation’s founders designed the Supreme Court to have one function and one function alone: the sober-minded and non-partisan interpretation of laws passed by the representative bodies of Congress. The task of every Supreme Court justice is to apply the U.S. Constitution, existing legal precedent, and sound reasoning to meaningful disputes about the application and scope of our laws. No one appointed to the court has any responsibility whatsoever to be a political activist or to enact a party’s policy program.
But if you listened to Democrats during Barrett’s confirmation hearings, you’d think the Supreme Court had an entirely different role to play. Time and again, prominent Democrats raised lines of questioning that were totally inappropriate for the hearings at hand. Rather than interrogating Judge Barrett’s legal qualifications, judicial competence, and commitment to the Constitution, Democrats used their time to grandstand with irrelevant monologues, scrutinize Judge Barrett’s family, and subject Barrett to bizarre political litmus tests.
The most egregious example of this came from Senator Hirono of Hawaii. Senator Hirono began her remarks by lampooning the hearings. Nominating a Supreme Court justice during an election may be entirely constitutional, but it doesn’t fit with Senator Hirono’s political goals, and so the entire process must be denigrated. Accordingly, Senator Hirono opened her questioning with a lengthy monologue about the coronavirus and the “hypocritical” nature of Barrett’s nomination, all of which seems neither here nor there in evaluating Judge Barrett’s fitness for our country’s highest court.
But Senator Hirono’s questioning only got worse. She pivoted abruptly from her coronavirus monologue to ask Judge Barret if she’s a rapist. Not only is this line of questioning indecent and inappropriate when there are neither accusations nor evidence that Judge Barrett has ever committed sexual harassment, but it also unfairly distracts from Barrett’s extraordinary record and qualifications and signals just how hostile the Democrats are to Barrett as a person, mother, wife and judge.
The most embarrassing exchange, however, came shortly thereafter and took up the lion’s share of Senator Hirono’s time. What Senator Hirono wanted to know was whether Judge Barrett would decide Supreme Court cases on the basis of party policy. As she put it, the distinction between the law and policy is a “fiction.” Judge Barrett repeatedly and rightly insisted that she would not bring an agenda to her service as a Supreme Court justice. But for Senator Hirono, that wasn’t good enough. To serve on Hirono’s Supreme Court, a justice must use his or her power to help remedy wrongs as defined by lawmakers and partisan politics.
A cornerstone of Hirono’s questioning was the Affordable Care Act. At issue wasn’t whether that piece of legislation was or was not constitutional. Instead, what Hirono wanted to know was whether Judge Barrett would mold her interpretation of the ACA’s constitutionality in light of the ostensibly righteous Democratic policy goals that it embodied.
Nothing could more perfectly summarize the Democrats’ disrespect for the Supreme Court than this exchange. Justices aren’t meant to be the judicial enforcers of party politics; they aren’t supposed to make legal decisions based on their desires or their wants. Most of all, Supreme Court justices absolutely should not be activists for a particular party platform. The ACA is either constitutional or unconstitutional, Roe v. Wade was either rightly or wrongly decided, Obergefell v. Hodges was either a correct or an incorrect application of the law. It doesn’t matter what Senator Hirono wants; what matters is what the law says.
Conservatives and faithful Christians like myself want people like Amy Coney Barrett on the bench, not because we want her to enact our policy agenda, but because we believe she will stop the court from continuing to enact a liberal policy agenda. We want justices, not progressive activists. Senator Hirono wants the court to legislate from the bench. The rest of us just want the court to do its job.
Ultimately, Judge Barrett’s nomination received unanimous approval, at least from those senators who deigned to show up and vote. But the hearings revealed the contempt that Democrats have for the Supreme Court as our Founding Fathers designed it. There’s nothing more embarrassing than that.
Timothy Head is executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.