Marsha Blackburn

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

Marsha Blackburn
October 12, 2020
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Judge Barrett, congratulations to you and to your family. I'm delighted to see that they are back in the room and I'm thrilled that they are here with us today.

You know, we have had 164 American citizens come before this committee for nomination to the Supreme Court and today is the fifth time that we have had a female judge come before us, so we welcome you. And I will say this, unfortunately it’s neither rare nor remarkable to see the kind of performances my Democratic colleagues have put on today. What they're trying to do is to convince the American people that they should be terrified of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

If you listen closely, to their full statements, it betrays their true intent. If you go back through the transcript, you're going to find not a coherent legal counter argument, but a panic stump speech on behalf of their controversial platform. Rather than reviewing your judicial philosophies, they're instead choosing to project their own desires and their fears onto the American people. It sounds as if they are trying to create a panic. They decided to drum up indignation over the fact that you dared to present a counter-argument against the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, a difference of opinion between two brilliant jurists who often disagree is just too much for them.

The rhetoric is unsettling, but after listening to them, I worry more about its underpinnings because my colleagues’ remarks have displayed their troubling belief that nothing but an activist judiciary will do for them. Given your track record you'd think that my colleagues would jump at the opportunity to support a successful female legal superstar who is highly regarded by both her Democratic and Republican colleagues and who is a working mom. But as today’s increasingly paternalistic, and frankly disrespectful, arguments have shown, if they had their way only certain kinds of women would be allowed into this hearing room.

On that note, not so long ago, in another hearing, they scrutinized your commitment to your Catholic faith and tried to use that as a way to question your competency and your professionalism. They know that that is unconstitutional, the Constitution forbids it. You are a brilliant jurist and a constitutional law expert; you will be an intellectual powerhouse on the Supreme Court and you will steer the panel's focus toward textualism and originalism as rightful guiding philosophies.

I love Justice Scalia's definition of textualism, “textualism in its present form begins and ends with what the text says and fairly implies." He goes on to defend textualism and explains that this method can lead to both conservative and liberal outcomes. Similarly, originalism doesn't always lead a jurist down the path they'd most like to follow. This method of interpretation holds that the meaning of a legal document, such as the Constitution, remains fixed even when applied over time to new questions. Staying true to these guidelines requires more study and patience than other methods that allow judges to reinvent the law or be activists when things get tricky.

Since taking the bench, I appreciate that you have written over 100 opinions and have participated in over 900 appeals where you have applied this complex reasoning. Thank you for that. We know that you are a prolific scholar and author of over a dozen articles on the courts and the Constitution, the ABA has rated you as well qualified to serve as a Supreme Court Justice. I appreciate that many times you’ve probably done this with the child in your arms, on your hip, or somewhere in tow, maybe waiting for a ball game to begin. you have done all of this as you have been a friend, a mentor, a wife, and a mom. These are impressive qualifications by any standard, so it is no surprise that you are fielding attacks from other angles.

Many of my colleagues have wasted a lot of their time complaining that the process in an effort to delay and obstruct a legitimate, constitutionally sound confirmation hearing. Let's not forget it was the Democrats who took an ax to process in 2018 when they dropped last minute unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. We still don't have the full story about their level and manner of coordination with activists and mainstream media outlets, but what we do know is that they turned that confirmation into a circus. And on that note, it is hard to take seriously their complaints about moving too quickly. We've heard about the timeline for Justice O’Connor, 33 days; Justice Ginsburg, 43 days. And just a word on Justice Ginsburg, whose seat we are filling, she was indeed a role model for many because she fought to open more doors for women in the law and beyond and I sincerely hope that I am as effective an advocate in the Senate as she was on the court.

We know from studying American history that women have had to always fight for a seat at the table. This goes back to Abigail Adams who urged her husband, John, to please remember the ladies in their fight for independence. and we know it took 150 years for women to get that right to vote but the Constitution allowed for that amendment process. Unfortunately, what we see today is that radical activists would like nothing more than to take a hatchet to process. Their favorite play is confronting the American people with the supposed illegitimacy of the Constitution. They argue that our founders’ flaws — and yes, they were flawed, all humans are — that the flaws invalidate the principles that bind this country together.

This betrays a dangerously naive understanding of the point and purpose of our founding legal document. The timeless principles contained in that document were written to protect individual rights, absolutely. These principles of course include the separation of powers, and federalism in our government, a system of checks and balances that prevents encroachment by one branch or another; if Congress acts beyond the scope of its legislative authority or the president grows too power hungry, the judiciary has the authority to rein that branch back in and if the vast bureaucracy dares to over-regulate states, their citizens have the right to stand up and challenge that overreach as being beyond the scope of federal power. Together the separation of powers and federalism have protected our republic from falling into the hands of tyrants, but keep in mind that the founders despise the tyranny of British rule just as much as they despised the whims of the mob.

Flash forward to today, when American exceptionalism is under bitter attack from yet another mob. While most Americans take pride in our heritage, a vocal minority finds fault at every turn. They demand to know: can we still call the Constitution a relevant, valid source of law even if no women or people of color participated in the drafting? Are the principles in that document still capable of curbing abuses of power and safeguarding freedom? Can we have faith that the future of democracy remains strong despite a summer of looting and violence in the streets? The answer to each is yes and over the next few days I expect that you, Judge Barrett, will explain why. So many families are watching today and we're all going to be listening.

Thank you for appearing before us, we look forward to your answers.

Blackburn, M. [Senator Marsha Blackburn]. (2020, October 12). Blackburn Gives Opening Statement at Judge Barrett’s Confirmation Hearing10 12 2020 []. Retrieved on February 6, 2021 from