Barrett repeatedly declined to discuss voting rights, coronavirus and the 2020 election, presidential pardon power, abortion, the Affordable Care Act and other issues that could appear before the Supreme Court in the coming months.
In response to a question from Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, mirroring a contentious moment during the hearings, Barrett again declined to say whether she believes “systemic racism” does or does not exist.
“I believe that racism persists in our country but, as I explained at the hearing, whether there is ‘systemic racism’ is a public policy question of substantial controversy, as evidenced by the disagreement among Senators on this very question during the hearing,” Barrett wrote. “As a sitting judge and judicial nominee, it would be inappropriate for me to offer an opinion on the matter.”
In her responses, Barrett repeated a version of an answer to questions about previous Supreme Court rulings nearly 40 times. “It would not be appropriate for me to opine further on this question; as Justice Kagan explained, it is not appropriate for a judicial nominee to ‘grade’ or give a ‘thumbs-up or thumbs-down’ to particular cases,” she repeatedly states.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to advance Barrett’s nomination Thursday, and the full Senate vote to confirm her to the bench is expected next Monday.
Privacy and climate change
“As I said at my hearing, because Griswold lies at the base of substantive due process doctrine, an area that remains the subject of ongoing litigation, I cannot opine on it,” Barrett wrote. “But I do not think Griswold is in danger of going anywhere.”
On the climate crisis, Barrett drew criticism from Democrats when she would not say if she agrees with the scientific consensus that climate change is man-made. Several times in her written responses, Barrett says her views on the issue aren’t relevant to her job as a judge.
“If a case comes before me involving environmental regulation, I will carefully review the record and apply the relevant law to the facts before me,” Barrett states in a response to Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.
Barrett also said at several points that the Supreme Court had recently described “climate change” as “controversial” and a “sensitive political topic.” She said it therefore would not be appropriate “to opine further on any subject of political controversy.”
She cited a 2018 case in which the conservative court majority had overturned a nearly 40-year-old Supreme Court ruling that had allowed unions to gather dues even from nonmembers for collective-bargaining activities.