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Here’s how Washington and Idaho senators feel about Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 26, 2020

President Donald Trump walks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a news conference Saturday in the Rose Garden at the White House.  (Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump walks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a news conference Saturday in the Rose Garden at the White House. (Alex Brandon)

Northwest senators on Saturday came out with largely partisan responses to President Donald Trump’s latest nominee for the Supreme Court, either condemning the quick bid to fill longtime liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat or touting potential successor Amy Coney Barrett’s accomplishments, depending on their political party.

Barely a week after Ginsburg died, Trump on Saturday announced he wanted to fill her seat with Barrett, who’s been hailed by religious conservatives as the type of voice missing from the court since the death of her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia.

In Washington and Idaho, senators weighed in on Barrett’s nomination with cautious congratulations or outright condemnation.

One of them, Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, is a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which will ultimately decide whether to confirm Barrett.

A spokesperson for Crapo said he was meeting with Barrett on Tuesday, and his office sent out a news release that was careful to convey impartiality in the meantime.

“I take seriously my constitutional responsibility to thoroughly review this nomination, and have long maintained that judges at every level of our judicial system must interpret the law as it is written, not legislate new positions from the bench,” Crapo’s statement reads. “I will conduct all due diligence to ensure my consideration of and votes regarding her nomination remain consistent with the principles and values of Idahoans.”

But, unlike Democratic senators’, Crapo’s statement also congratulated Barrett and detailed her achievements at length.

“A graduate of Rhodes College and Notre Dame Law School, Judge Amy Coney Barrett … is the first woman to occupy an Indiana seat on the Seventh Circuit,” the news release reads.

“She spent two years as a judicial law clerk for D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.”

Also touching on the gender issue, Shaakirrah Sanders, a law professor at the University of Idaho who teaches constitutional law, likened the quest to fill Ginsburg’s seat with another woman to Clarence Thomas replacing Thurgood Marshall as a Black voice on the court.

“It would be a very political move for Trump to choose the exact opposite of Ginsburg except for the fact that they share a gender,” she said.

“There is no guarantee that you get sort of another judge like the one who just left … There’s no slot for a liberal woman.”

Before Saturday, Trump said he intended to nominate another woman for Ginsburg’s seat.

“Clearly, he’s paying attention to the politics of it all,” Sanders said of Trump. “Is this a brilliant political move or did it spark something completely unexpected in November, in terms of how that vote turns out? It’s not like the election is three years away and people will forget; this will be fresh in people’s minds.”

Another Idaho Republican, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, also congratulated Barrett, saying she “has a reputation as an exemplary jurist and constitutionalist.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, didn’t have a problem with Barrett, per se – a statement from Murray’s office says that “any person (Trump) nominates to the Supreme Court is a vote to take away people’s health care and deny them vital rights in the middle of a pandemic.

“I oppose this nomination in the strongest terms, just like I’ve opposed other nominees this President has selected with the goals of pushing the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, dismantle affordable health care, and eliminate pre-existing conditions protections, and rolling back hard-fought rights that have made our country more just and equal,” Murray’s statement read.

Fellow Democratic Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, on the other hand, was direct about her ongoing disapproval of Barrett.

“Previously I had voted against Judge Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit because I did not believe her judicial philosophy represented a jurist who would uphold the privacy rights and other rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and in well-established legal precedents,” a statement from Cantwell’s office reads.

Like Murray’s, Cantwell’s statement also touches on the fast turnaround to fill Ginsburg’s seat, with a little more than a month before Election Day.

But Sanders noted that’s not against the law.

“And let’s remember, it’s not as if Amy Coney Barrett is going to be the Supreme Court; she’s going to be a member of the Supreme Court” if confirmed, Sanders said.

Even if that happens and the court shifts to the right, Sanders said in most cases, the judges more or less agree.

“It’s just the really tough social (decisions) that cause a lot of controversy, right?” she asked. “So I think that’s what’s going to be interesting.”

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