Young, Donnelly support confirmation of Barrett to 7th Circuit

October 31, 2017

Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate either today or early tomorrow morning to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals with the support of both Indiana senators. 

The anticipated vote follows a press conference Monday where Republican Senators, including Todd Young, accused Democrats of imposing a religious test on Barrett during her confirmation hearing. They characterized the questions from the minority members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as being “ugly anti-Catholic rhetoric” and taking the United States back to a time of hostility to people of certain faiths, like Catholicism and Mormonism.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced at the start of the press conference that Barrett would be among four judicial nominees the upper chamber would confirm this week.

The senators’ remarks echoed concerns raised by outside groups over the inquiries posed to Barrett during her hearing Sept. 6 before the Judiciary Committee. Members of both parties questioned her about her academic writings, which led some to wonder whether she advocated for judges to adhere to the teachings of their faith instead of following judicial precedence.

University of Notre Dame president, the Rev. John Jenkins and Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber wrote letters voicing concern that the line of questioning ran contrary to the Constitution’s prohibition against religious tests for candidates to any public office.

During the press conference, Young referred to Jenkins’ letter.

“I happen to agree with Rev. Jenkins that the attempt to live faith while upholding the law should command respect, not evoke concern,” Young said. “I take the Senate’s role of appointing quality candidates to the federal courts very seriously. I also take very seriously our responsibility to safeguard religious freedom. And so, my vote for Prof. Barrett’s confirmation will be both a vote for an outstanding nominee and a vote for religious freedom.”

In a statement, Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly said he was supporting Barrett’s confirmation based on her qualifications.

“As I have repeatedly said, part of my job is to review, debate, and vote on judicial nominations,” Donnelly said. “After reviewing Amy Barrett’s record carefully, meeting with her, and following her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, I believe she’s qualified to serve as a circuit court judge, and as a result, I have chosen to support her confirmation.”

However, the Indiana senator also pointed out that Barrett is not the first nominee for Indiana’s seat on the 7th Circuit.

“I was very disappointed that former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby, who was nominated in January 2016 for this seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit and was an outstanding candidate, did not receive a committee hearing or a vote,” Donnelly said, “However, as a Senator, I only can vote on the nominee that comes to the Senate floor.”

Selby did not receive a committee hearing because then-Indiana Sen. Dan Coats refused to support her nomination. He instead called for the formation of a selection committee to review potential judicial candidates and make a recommendation.

Barrett was not nominated by any selection committee. She was nominated the President, the same as Selby was. 

Other groups are voicing their opposition to Barrett’s nomination, saying they are worried she will roll back protections for women, minorities and gays and lesbians.

In advance of the confirmation vote, 15 Indiana organizations sent a letter to Senate majority and minority leaders, urging them to oppose Barrett. The groups include Indiana National Organization for Women, Indy 10 Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky.

“We care deeply about the future of our judicial system,” the groups wrote. “After examining Professor Barrett’s record, it is clear to us that she poses a threat to reproductive rights as well as the rights of workers, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and people of color.”


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