It was utterly amazing, the first hearing of the Senate on giving its consent to President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. The Democrats produced irrefutable evidence that they do not understand our republic, the Constitution or the court. They think court decisions should legislatively establish policies instead of protecting rule of law.
Democratic senator after Democratic senator assumed that Barrett, if placed on the court, would concur with five other justices more or less of her ilk in scrapping the Affordable Care Act in an upcoming case. Surrounded by large colorful pictures of possible victims, they then talked fervently about how millions would be left in misery with no insurance they can afford, maybe no insurance at all if they have preexisting conditions, a mass catastrophe.
First off, legal analysts say there is almost no way the court would terminate the program. I ran across one expert saying all nine justices would likely vote to sustain it. The issue has mostly to do with the individual mandate, the original Affordable Care Act requirement that Americans buy insurance or pay up without it. An earlier Supreme Court decision changed its penalty status to being a tax and said it was OK and then Congress got rid of it. Now there's this idea that the rest of Obamacare is unconstitutional without the sustaining tax, but the arguments are weak and Barrett's constitutionalist mind is not.
Just like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, however, Barrett says she will not say what she will do on a case until she has heard the arguments, looked at the evidence and studied precedents, relevant constitutional language and relevant laws and practices, such as protecting people relying on a program. To speak out first would be like skipping trials before jury verdicts. The Democrats don't get it and also struggle to grasp Barret's constitutionalism. It's not that hard. What it means is that, in deciding a case, her own preferences are not important. The language of the Constitution is.
To neglect its content is to convert the court to an oligarchy unanswerable to the people in elections as it decides on its own what the Constitution should say. Leftists contend this is an outdated old document with no grasp of modernity and that what we need is a living Constitution as formulated by anarchic, up-to-date pomposity. Excuse me, but the still-standing founding principles hold up extremely well and we have a democratic if necessarily difficult amendment process that should be ignored no more than a president's veto.
The second day of the hearing, when the calm, cool, brilliant, good-hearted Barrett was more or less interviewed by committee senators of both parties, was more pleasant with several astonishing exceptions. One was Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, who informed us of a conspiracy in which unidentified rich people — "dark money" — are using Barrett as part of an effort to take over America. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, crushed him with facts, not the least being that Wall Street and wealthy corporations are giving three times as much to Democrats as to Republicans who still care about free speech and religious liberty.
To some less extreme if still befuddled Democrats, Barrett is just a Trump ploy to get from her whatever he wants — a horrific insult to her — and the hearings are unsafe because senators are subjected to virus threats almost as great as going to a grocery store. Some absurdly pretend the whole thing is itself unconstitutional. They point to a Republican farce on a court nomination to justify them now taking roughly the same farcical position, but the scariest thing in all of this is a ruinous plan to pack the court if Barrett is approved.
The Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is refusing to state his position, obviously afraid he will lose votes whichever way he turns. He should therefore get no votes.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.