The Courts

The Unborkable Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett
Amy Coney Barrett / Getty Images

It is a mark of how dirty Senate Democrats have played over the past four years that they and their allies have been so little criticized for their treatment of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Certainly, they've floated allegations intended to sully her religious faith and fellowship from an unreliable and erratic source and boosted charges from America's preeminent race huckster that her adoption of two children from Haiti is racist.

But those claims are not so bad, at least compared with the absurd allegations of teenage gang-rape they directed at Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the most recent confirmation scuffle. Barrett is too squeaky clean for their usual tactics to work.

Democrats have instead gone to plan B, making clear what they've worked to obscure for the past three decades in previous attempts to derail Republican judicial nominations. If they can't attack Barrett's qualifications for the Court, they'll explicitly attack the political consequences of her nomination.

Finally, the mask has slipped. Forgoing even the pretext of principled opposition, Democrats now admit they oppose judges like Barrett for no other reason than that they would rein in their ability to legislate as they please and without regard for the constraints of the Constitution.

They've been pretending otherwise since at least 1987, when Joe Biden oversaw the demolition of Robert Bork's nomination to the Court. The viciousness of Democrats' assault on him made the judge's name a verb. They claimed he would resegregate America and leaked his video rental records—any means necessary to sink the nomination.

Four years later, Biden's committee tried to "Bork" Clarence Thomas's nomination with lurid stories about pubic hairs on a Coke can. Then Democrats filibustered Miguel Estrada's circuit court nomination, fearing it laid the groundwork for him to become the first Latino Supreme Court justice. Most recently, they and their media allies spent weeks airing decades-old allegations about Kavanaugh, the more preposterous the better.

This time around, the smears aren't sticking. Instead, Democrats are saying the quiet part out loud: At last week's presidential debate, Biden said he opposed Barrett not because of her qualifications but because she would hasten the overturn of Obamacare, once again before the Court in November, and because she would be a fifth or sixth vote against Roe.

Senate Democrats have followed suit. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) has refused to even meet with Barrett because he thinks she will "decimate health care," while Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) objected explicitly to Barrett's "closely held views that will impact a woman's right to choose."

Biden and his Senate colleagues are finally admitting what we've always known: They see the Supreme Court as just another venue for progressive rule and fear a judge who won't legislate from the bench. Claims about fitness and character were always a pretext for political ends.

There is no reason for Republicans to pay heed to this bare-knuckle politics, to care about bluster and threats to pack the Court. President Trump has sent them a devoted constitutionalist and first-rate legal mind; they should confirm her with all haste.