Coney Barrett Will Shift Partisan Blance in Supreme Court

In the wake of the Biden-Harris presidential victory, many Americans are discouraged that President Trump was able to secure Amy Coney Barrett as the ninth Supreme Court Justice in the midst of the 2020 presidential election. 

Barrett replaced the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was a member of the Supreme Court since her appointment by Bill Clinton in 1993. Ginsberg’s presence on the Supreme Court was pivotal, as she was the second woman and first Jewish woman on the court. Her vehement support for gender equality, the separation of church and state and the rights of workers deemed her a liberal-leaning justice, among three other left-leaning justices on the court at the time of her death. 

The replacement of the “Notorious RBG” with Amy Coney Barrett is contentious and concerning, even across bipartisan lines, for many reasons. 

Barrett herself is a contentious figure due to her strong and polarizing views on abortion, gay marriage and climate change. Her status as a devout Catholic renders Barrett critical of the abortion freedoms granted in the landmark case Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed women the right to an abortion in 1973. While Barrett has admitted both that she will not allow her religious views to interfere with her work and that she does not anticipate the core of Roe v. Wade being overturned or changed, she can foresee changes regarding how late in the term women can receive an abortion. 

Many were concerned by Barrett’s neglect of verbal support for the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges during her confirmation hearing in late October, despite her support for other landmark cases during this time. Obergefell v. Hodges was the 2015 Supreme Court case which ruled that same-sex couples could legally marry. Alphonso David, the Human Rights Campaign President, fears for the safety of LGBTQ rights following the confirmation of Barrett due to her sidestepping of integral questions. He says, “She sidestepped questions about preserving LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. And she refused to denounce prior writings and statements that, if implemented through the court, could result in a systematic regression of LGBTQ rights.” Barrett’s unwillingness to explicitly express her beliefs about landmark cases renders many Americans worried about the power she will yield in overturning or changing crucial cases in the future.

Further, during the confirmation hearings, Barrett also refused to explicitly state her views regarding climate change, but instead made vague and ambiguous references to the ongoing debate, stating that she “Will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial.” How can the public be willing or comfortable appointing someone to the highest court in the United States without hearing her view on current, relevant and contentious issues that will be brought to the Supreme Court desk in the coming years? The notion that “politically contentious ideas” should not be considered in her hearing is hypocritical, especially when Barrett now yields considerable power over policies for which the nation does not know her stance on. 

Barrett’s confirmation irrevocably tips the quasi-equivalence of the left and the right that was previously prevalent on the Supreme Court. Prior to Barrett’s appointment, the Supreme Court was composed of five right-leaning justices with left-leaning justices being in the minority with the remaining four justices. With the loss of Ginsberg and the addition of Barrett, the Supreme Court has become the most conservative court the United States has presented since the 1930s. The ideological disparity between the justices will make it difficult for any liberal court decisions to pass.  

The unconventional speed with which Barrett was confirmed adds to the indignation of many U.S. citizens. During the Obama Administration, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a precedent by prohibiting Obama from appointing a new Supreme Court justice, claiming that it should be left to the incoming president, who would not have been elected until much later that year. President Trump was not encumbered by this rule, as his appointee was proposed and confirmed to the Supreme Court before Nov. 3, when he lost reelection. 

The notion that President Trump, the incumbent, did not win reelection is a testament to the unfairness of the appointment of Barrett to the Supreme Court. Trump’s loss in the general election reflects the growing dissatisfaction of the nation with his ability to lead; by allowing him to appoint a justice to serve a lifetime sentence on the nation’s highest courts after many citizens had already cast absentee or early votes against him is an overextension of power. 

Due to the election of former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris to office, the partisan balances of power will begin to transform. The contentious confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court will augment the difficulty of power transferal as she gains a higher position of power.