SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mike Lee praised Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the most impressive judicial nominee he has ever seen and ripped Democrats for their treatment of Republican nominees to the Supreme Court past and present.
Lee joined the 12 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee in voting Thursday to advance the nomination of Barrett to the full Senate. The 10 Democrats on the panel boycotted the vote, and filled their seats with pictures of people who rely upon the Affordable Care Act for health insurance.
Democrats accused Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., of breaking a committee rule that says that two members of the minority party must be present to transact business. But Republicans say if a majority of the entire committee is present — which it was Thursday — it can move forward under long-standing precedents.
“This has been a sham process from the beginning,” Senate Democrats said in a statement. “Amidst a global pandemic and ongoing election, Republicans are rushing to confirm a Supreme Court justice to take away health care from millions and execute the extreme and deeply unpopular agenda that they’ve been unable to get through Congress.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 10 on whether the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that virtually every American obtain health insurance is constitutional and, if not, whether the rest of the law can survive.
Lee said Barrett threatens Democrats’ power not because she has a hidden agenda but because they do and she won’t enact those powers or exercise them by judicial fiat.
Barrett, he said, is one of the most impressive legal minds in the United States. He called her a thoughtful and fair-minded lawyer and a loving daughter, wife and mother who is a devout believer in her faith and the Constitution.
“She was arguably the most impressive judicial nominee that I’ve ever seen in any of these hearings, and I’ve been watching them intently since I was a kid,” said Lee, who President Donald Trump has considered to fill Supreme Court vacancies.
Lee said it’s a shame that Democrats, after “not being able to lay a glove” on Barrett during the confirmation hearings, chose to walk out on the process and “on the American people.”
“I suppose we should be grateful that a walkout is all that Democrats will do to Judge Barrett today. Not all nominees have been so lucky,” he said.
He called that an important point for those who might be tempted to believe the “pious, pearl-clutching and performance art” of the media and the Democrats on Barrett’s nomination.
Lee said he wanted to “set the record straight” about how Democrats have politicized the nomination process going back when a Democrat-controlled Senate “shamefully and slanderously” defeated Judge Robert Bork in 1987.
Democrats, he said, have turned Supreme Court nominations into “ideological knife fights” and the court into a “super legislature.”
“Like inquisitors burning heretics at the stake, torching, sliming, smearing, breaking norms, breaking rules to slander and strangle the nominations of constitutionalist judges is simply what the left does,” Lee said.
Lee said Democrats slandered Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, and tried to scuttle the vote on Barrett for partisan political reasons.
“The left seems to think the Supreme Court exists to impose their very worst ideas onto the public,” he said.
Barrett will not politicize the court but will turn back policy decisions and political debate to the people and their elected representatives, Lee said. Democrats aren’t angry that Barrett is going to be a partisan justice but because they know she will not be, he said. They aren’t afraid that she will legislate from the bench but that she will force both parties to legislate from statehouses, Lee said.
“We need to confirm Amy Coney Barrett not to give political power to conservatives or Republicans but to finally give it back to the American people from whom it was stolen so many years ago,” Lee said. “The left has taken the political low road on the judiciary for decades. Amy Coney Barrett will take the constitutional high road for decades to come.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters after the committee meeting that the Republican majority is conducting the “most rushed, the most partisan and the least legitimate process in the long history of Supreme Court nominations.”
Barrett’s potential confirmation will have “dire consequences” for the Senate, Supreme Court and the country for generations to come, he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the full Senate, where Republicans own a 53-47 majority, will vote on the Barrett nomination Monday.