SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mike Lee says it would be offensive for Democrats to go after U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett over her Catholic faith.
“I think it would be a real mistake for them to do that. Nobody’s ever retained me as Democratic strategist so I won’t purport to tell them what is in their best political interest,” the two-term Republican told reporters after meeting privately with Barrett on Tuesday.
“I can tell you as a religious minority myself ... just find it offensive that someone would go after someone’s religious affiliation or religious beliefs as a basis for either confirming or not confirming.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is scheduled to meet with Barrett on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump nominated Barrett, a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, to replace left-leaning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high court.
Barrett is a Catholic and member of a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty to one another and are assigned and accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head,” who helps them make important decisions.
When Trump picked her for the appeals court in 2017, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., wasn’t convinced Barrett would uphold Roe v. Wade given her Catholic beliefs.
“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country,” Feinstein said at Barrett’s confirmation hearing.
Lee defended Barrett then, citing the infamous “extermination order” Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs signed to rid the state of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 182 years ago. Lee said that bigotry can never be allowed to repeat itself. Lee is a Latter-day Saint.
Polls show a majority of Americans want the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election between Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden to pick the next Supreme Court justice.
Some have speculated that Republicans could lose their slim majority in the Senate if they push Barrett’s confirmation through before Election Day.
Asked whether it’s worth losing the Senate to confirm Barrett, Lee said he rejects the premise of the question.
“I guess I would have to ask you at the outset on what basis do you think Republicans would lose the majority as a result of having confirmed Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court?” he asked.
Lee said there aren’t large swaths of voters who are going to stay home or vote for Trump depending on whether the Senate confirms Barrett.
“I don’t think this election is going to be determined by whether or not we confirm her,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t accept the premise that by confirming her we will be accepting a fate of losing the majority.”
Lee said he and Barrett did not talk about the Affordable Care Act or whether Barrett should recuse herself from any election-related cases should she be confirmed.
“I don’t think it’s fair, I don’t even think it’s reasonable at this point to speculate on cases in which she ought to preemptively consider recusing herself before she’s confirmed,” he said.
Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, described his meeting with Barrett as “fantastic.” He said they talked about the confirmation process, how the hearings would go, legal “nuts and bolts,” and how her children are doing. Barrett is the mother of seven.
Barrett, he said, is a judge, legal scholar, lawyer and jurist with outstanding credentials.
“I think things are going to go well and I think we’ll get her confirmed,” Lee said.