Joni Ernst

Barrett Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement – Oct. 12, 2020

Joni Ernst
October 12, 2020
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Thank you, Mr. Chair. And Judge Barrett, thank you so much for being in front of us today, welcome to you and of course I am so glad that you have had your family join you today as well.

Only a hundred years ago, women in this country were given the right to vote and today we consider adding another woman to the highest court in the land and I can't help but be so proud of all every one of our women have accomplished in this incredible nation. This is the first time that I've been a member of the judiciary committee during a Supreme Court nomination process. And as you probably know, like most Americans, I'm not a lawyer. I bring a slightly different perspective onto this committee but one thing is very important to me and it's something that matters to Iowans whether they are lawyers or not; I firmly believe in the role of our Supreme Court; it is the defender of our Constitution. At the end of the day that's my test for a Supreme Court justice, “will you defend the Constitution?”

It frustrates me and it frustrates my fellow Iowans that the Supreme Court has become a super legislature for a Congress that frankly won't come together, discuss these tough issues, and do its job. What I hear from my colleagues on the left is about judicial activism and what they want to see in their nominees, which is that super legislature. They are projecting that upon you, Judge Barrett. That’s what they are projecting as they talk about what cases may or may not come in front of the Supreme Court.

Matter of fact, I think it was just the other day that Vice President Joe Biden told the American people they don't deserve to know whether he is going to pack the court, they don't deserve to know who his judicial nominees would be. I think we do need to know. Again, because it's what the left is projecting on you today, is what they want to see in their nominees. But that's not what our founders intended the Court to be.

I hope that this hearing will be an open, fair conversation about how Judge Barrett would be as Justice Barrett. I am concerned, however, that not everyone involved in this hearing shares that goal. We’ve already seen hints in that over the past few weeks, immediately attacking your faith and your precious family. Instead of entering into this nomination process with an open mind and a desire to understand this woman who has been nominated for the highest court in the land, the focus is on a plan or a strategy, a series of tactics to undermine, coerce and confuse the American people. A plan, Judge Barrett, to undermine you as a person, undermine your family, and undermine what you hold dear.

Women all over the world are painfully familiar with this strategy, we are all too often perceived and judged based on who someone else needs or wants us to be, not on who we actually are. I cannot speak for those that would attempt to undermine your nomination but as a fellow woman, a fellow mom, a fellow Midwesterner, I see you for who you are and I'm glad the American people have the opportunity to get to know Amy Coney Barrett.

This week will be an opportunity to dig into your background further and understand more about your judicial philosophy but what your political opponents want to paint you as is a TV or cartoon version of a religious radical, a so-called handmaid, that feeds into all of the ridiculous stereotypes they have set out to lambast people of faith in America, and that's wrong.

It might be less comical if this was the first time the left has trotted out this partisan playbook; your political opponents have made these types of religious attacks on nearly every Supreme Court candidate nominated by a Republican president in the modern era. And every time, like clockwork, they say they really mean it, this time, this nominee, this woman in front of us, she is the absolute worst.

I'm struck by the irony of how demeaning to women their accusations really are. That you, a working mother of seven with a strong record of professional and academic accomplishment, couldn't possibly respect the goals and desires of today's women. That you, as a practicing Catholic with a detailed record of service, lack compassion. I know you to be compassionate, your record on the Seventh Circuit says that you are. And more importantly, it shows that your demonstrated commitment is to defending the Constitution.

The great freedom of being an American woman is that we can decide how to build our lives, whom to marry, what kind of person we are, and where we want to go. I served in the army, something not exactly popular at various points in America's history. We don't have to fit the narrow definition of womanhood; we create our own path.

Justice Ginsburg was one such woman and I would like to pay tribute to her, for what she did to pave the way for women of today. It's really quite simple what your opponents are doing, they are attacking you as a mom and a woman of faith because they cannot attack your qualifications.

Every year I travel to every single one of Iowa's 99 counties and talk to men and women from all walks of life. Whether they are farmers or nurses or small business owners, they want a government that is accountable to them. When Congress makes a law that oversteps the Constitution, the ripples can be felt whether it's on farms in Montgomery County, where I'm from, and the manufacturing facilities of Dubuque. It can be felt in the church services of Sioux City and the community meetings in Waterloo.

The Supreme Court's only job is to rule on the cases before it and defend the Constitution. To do that well a justice needs to be thoughtful, restrained, and wise. Judge Barrett, so far, I have seen all of those things in you. I am so glad that we have you in front of us, I look forward to learning more about you. I want to thank you and your family for being in this nomination today. And certainly, this folks, is what a mom can do. Thank you, Judge Barrett, very much.

Ernst, J. K. [Senator Joni Ernst]. (2020, October 12). Ernst’s Opening Statement at Judiciary Committee Hearing for Supreme Court Nominee Judge Barrett []. Retrieved on February 5, 2021 from