In choosing Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the president opted for the candidate most likely to thrill his conservative base and outrage his liberal opponents.
WASHINGTON — President Trump introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court on Saturday, calling her “one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds” as he ignited a partisan and ideological battle in the middle of an already volatile presidential campaign.
In a ceremony in the Rose Garden with Judge Barrett at his side and her husband and seven children in the audience, Mr. Trump presented Judge Barrett as a champion of the same sort of conservative judicial philosophy as her onetime mentor Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked and who died four years ago.
“She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution,” Mr. Trump said as he made his third Supreme Court nomination in nearly four years in office. At stake in her nomination is the future of gun rights, religious liberty and public safety, he added, as he pressed for a quick confirmation that he has said should come before the election on Nov. 3. “This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation.”
In her own remarks, Judge Barrett directly aligned herself with Justice Scalia, whose widow, Maureen, was in the audience. “His judicial philosophy is mine too — a judge too must apply the law as written,” Judge Barrett said. “Judges are not policymakers and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
She sought to humanize herself as “a room parent, car pool driver and birthday party planner” who adopted two children from Haiti and in recent months has had to learn the vicissitudes of online education just like so many others during the coronavirus pandemic that has closed schools.
And she sought to address “my fellow Americans” who might be concerned about her views, vowing to faithfully discharge her duties without bias. “If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle, and certainly not for my own sake,” she said. “I would assume this role to serve you.”
Democrats wasted no time announcing their opposition to Judge Barrett, both on the grounds of her judicial philosophy and on the basis of the rushed process that Mr. Trump and Republicans are pursuing to force her confirmation before the election when the president said he wants her on the court to rule on any challenges he brings to the outcome.
“The American people should make no mistake — a vote by any senator for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. Mr. Schumer called the nomination so close to the election a “reprehensible power grab is a cynical attack on the legitimacy of the court.”
In choosing Judge Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president opted for the candidate most likely to thrill his conservative base and outrage his liberal opponents, drawing sharp lines on some of the most divisive disputes in American life at a time when voters have already begun to cast ballots in the contest for the White House.
Never in American history has a Supreme Court confirmation fight played out to conclusion so close to a presidential election and the confluence of the debate in the halls of the Senate with the debate on the campaign trail injected further uncertainty into the fall. Mr. Trump hopes to galvanize conservatives and change the subject from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 203,000 Americans while his adversaries seek to rally liberals over the prospect of the Supreme Court turning further to the right.
The president, addressing a late-night campaign rally in Newport News, Va., on Friday, rejected complaints by Democrats that he was rushing to fill the seat too close to an election even though Senate Republicans refused to even consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland made months before the 2016 election.
“The Democrats are saying, ‘Well, it’s the end of a term,’” Mr. Trump told supporters who chanted “fill that seat” during the rally. “You know, we have a lot of time left. Think of this. If it were them — don’t forget, we don’t have to do it by the election, but we should really be able. That would be a great victory, going into the election with that biggest of all victories.” He added that the appointment could influence the country “for 40 years, 50 years.”
Indeed, Judge Barrett, 48, would be the youngest member of the current court and could serve for decades, underscoring the stakes. Mr. Trump has long believed that one of the pivotal reasons for his election victory in 2016 was his appeal to conservatives eager to fill the seat held open by Senate Republicans after Justice Scalia’s death that February.
Judge Barrett’s nomination could arguably be the most consequential since President George Bush appointed Judge Clarence Thomas to succeed Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1991, replacing the court’s most liberal member at the time with a jurist who would prove to be its most conservative. Judge Barrett, who was seen as the most committed conservative on Mr. Trump’s list of finalists, would similarly take the seat of a liberal justice in a sharp philosophical shift.
Educated at Notre Dame Law School, she served on its faculty for years before Mr. Trump appointed her in 2017 to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
During her confirmation hearings to that post, Democrats questioned her public statements and Catholicism, making her a hero to religious conservatives who denounced what they called unfair attacks on her faith. But liberals pointed to her writings to say they feared she would undo Roe v. Wade and other rulings on gay rights, health care and other issues.
“If she is nominated and confirmed, Coney Barrett would work to dismantle all that Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for during her extraordinary career,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, which promotes rights for L.G.B.T.Q. Americans, said before Mr. Trump’s announcement. “An appointment of this magnitude must be made by the president inaugurated in January.”
Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, an anti-abortion group, called Judge Barrett’s selection “exciting news” for conservatives. “We have confidence that she will fairly apply the law and constitution as written, which includes protecting the most vulnerable in our nation: our unborn children,” she said.
Polls show that most Americans say that the winner of the Nov. 3 election should fill the seat rather than Mr. Trump rushing through an appointment before then. But the president made clear this past week that he wanted his pick on the court in time to rule on any challenges arising from the election itself, guaranteeing what he hopes would be an additional vote to potentially secure a second term.
To confirm her by then would require a 38-day sprint through a process that since 1975 has typically taken twice as long, all at the same time many senators want to be in their home states to campaign. No seriously contested Supreme Court nomination has been confirmed so quickly since 1949.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will vet Judge Barrett’s nomination and himself an incumbent facing a serious election challenge, planned to outline the confirmation process for the first time in a statement Saturday night after the president’s announcement.
Mr. Graham’s schedule will call for significantly less time than usual for lawmakers to meet with and vet Judge Barrett than recent nominees, cutting to about two weeks a stage of the process that has typically lasted six. Later parts of the process would also be compressed. White House officials had already started reaching out Thursday and Friday to begin scheduling courtesy visits to lawmakers who wanted them, even before there was a nominee.
Mr. Graham has circulated a schedule to Republican lawmakers that includes four consecutive days of confirmation hearings beginning Oct. 12, and a committee vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 22. Senate Republicans were aiming for a final confirmation vote in the final days of October, although Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has kept his cards close to his vest rather than fully commit to a pre-election vote.
Republicans argue that the truncated timeline is appropriate given that Judge Barrett was vetted by the Senate as recently as 2017 for her current post. But if Republicans aim to have a new justice installed before the election, it leaves little room for error or unexpected delay.
Republicans expect to lose two of their more moderate members. Senator Susan Collins of Maine has said that she will not vote to confirm anyone before Election Day out of fairness. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska took a similar position and then backtracked, but she is a vocal supporter of abortion rights and is expected to look skeptically upon the nominee’s views of Roe v. Wade. The defections, though, are unlikely to go any farther and Mr. McConnell has made clear to colleagues that he is pleased with Judge Barrett’s selection.
With little chance of stopping Judge Barrett’s confirmation, Senate Democrats hoped to stir public outrage over what they called an election-season power grab by Republicans that could have a lasting and damaging effect on the lives of Americans. For now, the fight appeared to have unified Senate Democrats in opposition to any nominee — no small feat given the handful of moderates in their ranks. And Democrats have made clear in recent days that they intend to hammer away at Judge Barrett’s views on abortion and the Affordable Care Act.
“You’ll find there will be a wall of opposition, pretty unyielding, based on the rush to confirm a justice before the inaugural, denying the American people any voice in choosing the next justice,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who sits on the Judiciary Committee.
Judge Barrett was always Mr. Trump’s front-runner for the next Supreme Court vacancy even before Justice Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18. When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court was endangered in 2018 over allegations of sexual misconduct, Judge Barrett quietly became the top contender to take his place if his confirmation had failed.
That summer, she underwent an initial round of vetting that included an F.B.I. background check and lawyers working on her potential nomination did a substantive vetting of all of her legal opinions, law review articles and other writing and public remarks to get a full sense for her judicial philosophy.
At that time, federal prosecutors were also asked to find religious liberty legal arguments that could help blunt criticisms that Judge Barrett’s deeply held Catholic beliefs could improperly affect her ability to serve as a justice, according to a prosecutor who contributed to that work. Officials expect that legwork to help streamline her nomination process this time.
Ms. Barrett is a favorite among conservatives and the Federalist Society. At the group’s gala last year, the audience cheered when Justice Kavanaugh took to the stage to give the night’s keynote speech, and some in the crowd yelled, “Amy Coney Barrett’s next” as he prepared to speak.
Ms. Barrett is highly regarded by Vice President Mike Pence, who is from Indiana, and his chief of staff, Marc Short, could play an important role in her confirmation process. The battle will be led by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and no sherpa with deeper ties to the Senate has been named.
Katie Benner contributed reporting from Washington, Maggie Haberman from New York and Rebecca Ruiz from South Bend, Ind.
News – Trump Announces Barrett as Supreme Court Nominee