Chairman Lindsey Graham kicked off Tuesday's confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett by asking perhaps the best question you could ask a Supreme Court nominee.
“You said you are an originalist, is that true?" Graham said. "What does that mean in English?"
Barrett was happy to oblige.
“In English. Okay, so in English that means that I interpret the Constitution as a law," Barrett answered. "That I interpret its text as text. And I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”
Amy Coney Barrett says she’s an “originalist” like Scalia: “I interpret the Constitution as a law … and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified. That meaning doesn’t change over time and it’s not up to me to update it.” https://t.co/icerlzcGqJ pic.twitter.com/6Y6P6e840z— ABC News (@ABC) October 13, 2020
Graham noted that her take sounded a lot like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom Barrett once clerked, telling her that the press has often referred to her as the "female Justice Scalia." While she seemed clearly flattered, she explained that she fully expects to be her own justice.
"I want to be careful to say that if I'm confirmed, you would not be getting a Justice Scalia, you would be getting a Justice Barrett."
Even Justices Scalia and Thomas, who too were originalists, differed often enough that one of Barrett's friends is teaching a class called "Scalia v. Thomas."
Barrett reiterated that point during Sen. Feinstein's Q&A after the senator asked her if she shared Scalia's opinion on gay marriage, and a host of other controversial topics.
"Just because he decided a decision a certain way, that I will too," she told Feinstein.
It's a good thing that Chairman Graham asked actually relevant and important questions of the nominee, because we know the Democrats' religious litmus tests are coming.