UW News

September 26, 2020

UW political scientist: Amy Coney Barrett gives conservatives a ‘hammerlock’ on the US Supreme Court

UW News

Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s choice to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is a “nightmare for liberals,” says Scott Lemieux, an assistant teaching professor of political science at the University of Washington. The 48-year-old judge from Indiana, currently serving on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, was formally announced by Trump at an event Saturday.

Lemieux, an expert on the U.S. Supreme Court, has written extensively about the terms of justices, the politics of the court, and specific cases on which it has ruled.

Trump’s choice of Barrett, with little more than a month to go before Election Day, is “overwhelmingly likely” to be confirmed in the Republican-led Senate, Lemieux said, and could play a role in determining the outcome of a contested election.

Barrett worked with George W. Bush’s legal team in Florida during the dispute over the 2000 election, which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court on a party-line vote.

“The confirmation hearings are likely to take on additional friction because of the potential role of the Supreme Court in resolving a disputed election. President Trump has asserted that the election ‘will end up at the Supreme Court,’” Lemieux noted. “Democrats are likely to have serious concerns about her impartiality should the Supreme Court play a role in the election.”

Additional comments from Lemieux

On the replacement of Ginsburg:

“Amy Coney Barrett will be a Supreme Court nomination that earns President Trump widespread praise from conservatives while being a nightmare for liberals.

“The court’s second female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will be replaced by a justice with diametrically opposed views on virtually every important constitutional question, including reproductive rights, voting rights and the scope of federal power.”

The role of Barrett in a conservative majority:

“This will give Republicans a 6-3 hammerlock on the court, and short-term consequences include the near-certain overruling of Roe v. Wade, with the Affordable Care Act also in real danger.”

The legacy of the Republican push to fill the vacancy:

“This Republican triumph is not without risk for the party, as this unprecedented last-minute appointment, following Senate Republicans’ refusing to hold hearings for Obama nominee Merrick Garland makes a potential Biden administration with a Republican Senate more likely to consider measures like expanding the size of the court, ending the filibuster for legislation, and statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.”

For more information, contact Lemieux at slemieux@uw.edu.