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What Is Amy Coney Barrett's Stance On Issues That Often Arise Before Supreme Court?


Joining us now is NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

Nina, welcome back.


CORNISH: When Judge Barrett's nomination was announced in the Rose Garden just over two weeks ago, she pointed proudly to this clerkship for conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Today Barrett seemed to be putting some distance between herself and Scalia. Can you talk about that?

TOTENBERG: Yes. You know, over and over again, she was asked whether she agreed with Scalia's opinions - his fervent dissents, for instance, opposing abortion rights, gay rights, his dissenting opinion saying that in his view, Obamacare should've been struck down. And here's what she said every time she was asked that kind of a question.


AMY CONEY BARRETT: But I want to be careful to say that if I'm confirmed, you would not be getting Justice Scalia. You would be getting Justice Barrett.

CORNISH: And we said the question of whether Barrett would recuse herself from any possible case involving this year's presidential election was also an issue.

TOTENBERG: Yeah. Audie, in particular, she was repeatedly asked whether she would recuse herself from any case involving the upcoming election in view of President Trump's statements and tweets saying that he wanted her on the court by Election Day for that very reason. But she never really answered the question of recusal.


CONEY BARRETT: I have had no conversation with the president or any of his staff on how I might rule in that case. It would be a gross violation of judicial independence for me to make any such commitment or for me to be asked about that case and how I would rule. I also think it would be a complete violation of the independence of the judiciary for anyone to put a justice on the court as a means of obtaining a particular result.

CORNISH: Barrett was asked a lot of questions about abortion rights, same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, even a decision that she wrote on gun rights. Did the committee get any real insight into her view on whether she would adhere to those precedents or not?

TOTENBERG: Truthfully, not really. She, like previous nominees, said it would be inappropriate to commit to following particular precedents. But I do think it's fair to say that Barrett, in her scholarly writing, has taken a narrower view of precedents that have to be followed than most previous nominees. She wrote a Law Review article about this and listed only six Supreme Court precedents as what she called super precedents that should not be overruled - six. And three of them were in the 1800s.

CORNISH: Was there any moment of real surprise?

TOTENBERG: Yes, and it was when Democrat Dick Durbin asked her if she'd watched the video of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and she said it had been particularly painful for her and her children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti and are Black. And she said she wept with her oldest daughter.


CONEY BARRETT: My children, to this point in their lives, have had the benefit of growing up in a cocoon where they have not yet experienced hatred or violence. And for Vivian, you know, to understand that there would be a risk to her brother or the son she might have one day of that kind of brutality has been an ongoing conversation. And it's a difficult one for us, like it is for Americans all over the country.

TOTENBERG: So a rare personal insight from the nominee.

CORNISH: Nina, can you tell us what's next in this process? This was only Day 2.

TOTENBERG: Well, tomorrow - it's going to go long. It's going to go late tonight. It'll go late tomorrow night, in all probability. And the Republicans have scheduled a voting committee, as I understand it, for Thursday, even though all of the answers to the written questions won't even be in. This is on a warp speed trajectory to get her confirmed before Election Day.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Nina Totenberg on Day 2 of Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings.

Thank you for your reporting. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.