Senate Judiciary Committee members questioned Judge Barrett today for over 10 hours on the second day of her confirmation hearings, with just a couple short breaks. Remarkably, there were none of the contentious moments that have marked confirmation hearings in the past. What today’s hearing lacked in terms of controversy, it made up for in in other notable ways. Here are some of the more interesting moments from today’s proceedings.
No notes. When Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Judge Barrett if she brought notes with her to the proceeding to refer to in answering questions from senators, she held up a blank note pad that had been provided to her at the witness table. But with her excellent recall skills, she was extremely well prepared to discuss professional articles she had written, judicial decisions she had participated in, and various court decisions, provisions of the U.S. Constitution, and statutes.
No questions from Democrats about her faith. Although Barrett’s Catholic faith and her family’s membership in the ecumenical group, People of Praise, has been the subject of several mainstream media articles in the days and weeks prior to these hearings, committee Democrats studiously avoided asking her any questions about it today. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s questioning of Barrett at the judge’s 2017 confirmation hearing, which included the senator’s now infamous “the dogma lives loudly within you” statement, raised profound criticism from various conservative and religious circles at the time. Democrats avoided a similar mistake at Tuesday’s proceedings.
Even when questioning Barrett about a pro-life letter she signed in 2007 that appeared in a local Indiana newspaper, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., took pains to preface his question with assurances that he was not going to ask her about her faith.
No hearing room protestors. The 2018 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh were constantly interrupted by protestors in the hearing room who disrupted the proceedings on a regular basis. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the public is not allowed in the hearing room this time around.
George Floyd personal recollection. At one point, Judge Barrett was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., for her reaction to the killing of George Floyd in May by a Minneapolis police officer. Barrett shared an emotional personal remembrance of talking to her children about it. “Senator, as you might imagine, given that I have two black children, that was very, very personal for my family,” she said. Two of Barrett’s seven children, Vivian and John Peter, are black and were adopted from Haiti. “It was very difficult for her,” Barrett said, referring to her daughter Vivian, “and we wept together in my room.”
Plays the piano. In a personal question from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Barrett said she took lessons for 10 years, as do her children now.
What does it feel like to be nominated? Chairman Graham’s personal question opened up a deeply honest and revealing response from Judge Barrett. “Jesse and I had a brief amount of time to make a decision with momentous consequences for our family. We knew that our lives would be combed over for any negative detail. We knew that our faith would be caricatured. We knew our family would be attacked. And we had to decide whether those difficulties would be worth it, because what sane person would go through that if there wasn’t a benefit on the other side? And the benefit I think is that I’m committed to the rule of law and the role of the Supreme Court in dispensing equal justice for all. And I’m not the only person who could do this job, but I was asked, and it would be difficult for anyone. So why should I say that someone else should do the difficulty. If the difficulty is the only reason to say ‘no,’ I should serve my country. And my family is all in on that, because they share my belief in the rule of law.”
The hearings continue on Wednesday with a second round of questions from each committee member.
Photo is from Reuters.