Barrett was nominated by President Trump at the end of September, shortly after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.
With the presidential election just around the corner, Trump’s nomination has been a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats.
The committee began Barrett’s confirmation hearing with opening statements on Monday followed by the start of questioning on Tuesday.
“Judge Barrett brings impeccable credentials and judicial temperament and a faithfulness to the law. That’s what we should be looking for in Supreme Court justices,” said Cruz during his opening statement on Monday.
The junior senator reiterated his argument that when the White House and the Senate are controlled by the same party and a Supreme Court nomination is made during a presidential election year, the nomination has typically been confirmed.
“On the other hand,” noted Cruz, “[w]hen the president and Senate are of different parties, the Senate over history has confirmed only two of those 10 nominees.”
“This is [. . .] the body that consistent with two centuries of precedent can, should, and I believe will confirm Judge Barrett as Justice Barrett,” said Cruz.
Cornyn likewise lauded Barrett for her temperament, saying, “Folks with widely different judicial philosophies agree that you are brilliant, respectful, kind, and when you disagree, you do so without personal rancor or malice.”
“I’m confident that at the end of this process, you will be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court,” Cornyn told Barrett.
During the first round of questioning on Tuesday, Cornyn first noted that he and the other senators were frequently referring to stacks of notes, but asked what Barrett was referencing.
Barrett held up a blank notepad.
After applauding her for not relying on any notes, Cornyn defended the nominee against criticism from Democrats who have speculated how she would rule on cases currently before the Court, particularly emphasizing litigation surrounding Obamacare.
“Almost as pernicious as attacking someone for their faith and suggesting that that disqualifies them from holding a public office is the attack that’s being made on judicial independents,” said Cornyn.
“But I want to just take a little walk down memory lane,” he added. “There are a lot of people who guessed how judges would actually rule on cases, and almost always, they’ve been spectacularly wrong.”
The most recent example that Cornyn cited was that of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate in 2017.
“I think about the attacks on Neil Gorsuch for his unwillingness to make a prior commitment on LGBT issues,” said Cornyn. “He wrote the Bostock case, extending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to gay or transgender individuals. Obviously those predictions were wrong.”
Asked by Cornyn if she would be willing to “make a deal,” Barrett said that she was “not willing to make a deal; not with the committee, not with the president, not with anyone. I’m independent.”
Cruz began his round of questioning on Tuesday by asking Barrett why the protection of religious liberty in the First Amendment is important.
“I think it’s broadly viewed that the framers and ratifiers protected the free exercise of religion [. . .] for reasons we all know from history of persecuted religious minorities fleeing to the United States,” replied Barrett.
“You don’t really need the First Amendment if what you’re saying is something that everybody wants to hear; you need it when people are trying to silence you,” she said.
Without asking for Barrett’s opinion on the issues, Cruz also addressed several hot political topics related to the judiciary, including abortion, the Second Amendment, and free speech.
Calling out Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who spoke before him and argued that “dark money” groups are influencing the makeup and decisions of courts, Cruz said that Democrats who “address the issue of so-called ‘dark money’ in campaign finance contributions are often deeply, deeply hypocritical and don’t address the actual facts that exist.”
Cruz said that 14 of the top 20 organizations that spent money on political speech in 2016 gave “virtually all of their money to Democrats,” while three split donations evenly and three supported Republicans.
Shifting away from political subjects, Cruz ended his allotted time by asking Barrett about her personal life, such as her musical talents and how her family has transitioned to virtual schooling during the pandemic.
Questioning will continue on Wednesday, and outside witnesses will testify to the committee on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to bring Barrett’s nomination to the Senate floor before the presidential election, possibly by the end of October.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.