WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined Alisyn Camerota on CNN to discuss this week’s confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
On Judge Barrett’s record, Sen. Coons said, “[S]he repeatedly wrote over and over in opinion and law review article after article what she would do, not just with the Affordable Care Act, but with precedent more broadly. That's a fancy way of saying she's to the right of Justice Scalia. She has made it clear that she would join Justice Thomas and others in reaching back and overturning long settled cases from 20 or 30 years ago.”
On the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Coons said, “I will be asking her about her statements, a recent written statement in an article she wrote just in 2017, criticizing Chief Justice Roberts and his decision upholding the ACA on very similar grounds as those that the Trump Administration is arguing in the Supreme Court should justify taking away these critical health care protections from a majority of Americans.”
Full video is available here. A transcript is provided below.
Q: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who will be questioning Judge Amy Coney Barrett today. Okay, let's talk about what's going to happen today. Give us a preview. What's your top question for Judge Barrett?
Sen. Coons: What I'm hearing from Delawareans, Alisyn, is concern about health care, about the Supreme Court case that's going to be heard a week after the election, and the key question: Why? Why are we doing this hearing now in the middle of a pandemic when the Senate is shut down because there's three senators infected? There's been an outbreak at the White House that's infected more than 35 people, so why this rush? I think the answer is hiding in plain sight. President Trump promised he would only choose a nominee who would overturn the Affordable Care Act, taking away health care protections from a majority of Americans. I will remind you, Alisyn, Justice Ginsburg, whose seat we are having this hearing to fill, dedicated her life to gender equality, and one of the key provisions of the ACA protects women against discrimination by insurance companies just for being women. Insurance companies used to treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, and there’s 130 million Americans who have other pre-existing conditions. I will be asking her about her statements – a recent written statement in an article she wrote just in 2017, criticizing Chief Justice Roberts and his decision upholding the ACA on very similar grounds as those that the Trump Administration is arguing in the Supreme Court should justify taking away these critical health care protections from a majority of Americans.
Q: Is there anything that she could say that would win you over with that answer?
Sen. Coons: She could say, “that's absolutely untrue, here is what I meant, and here is what I would do.” But I don't expect her to do that. She signaled loud and clear what she will do in this case – that's why President Trump chose her. Now, to be clear, I'm not accusing her – I'm not suggesting that she had some private conversation with the president where they cut some deal. That would be inappropriate and she specifically said she had no conversation about this case or any other individual case. But as an academic, she repeatedly wrote over and over in opinion and law review article after article what she would do, not just with the Affordable Care Act, but with precedent more broadly. That's a fancy way of saying she's to the right of Justice Scalia. She has made it clear that she would join Justice Thomas and others in reaching back and overturning long settled cases from 20 or 30 years ago. She is at one end of the spectrum in terms of her expressed willingness to overturn precedent. Even Justice Scalia at times hesitated to do that because of what's called reliance interest. So there's millions and millions of Americans who have ordered their lives based on an expectation that the Affordable Care Act is law. It was settled eight years ago. That's the sort of thing that Justice Scalia in his earlier years might have said, “okay, we shouldn't move ahead even if I disagree with this law.” Judge Barrett has made it clear things that were decided 20, 30, even 50 years ago, she may well go back and revisit. That's conservative judicial activism.
Q: As a side issue, Senator Mike Lee was in the chamber yesterday.
Sen. Coons: Yes.
Q: And he was mask-less for much of it. He tested – he was diagnosed with Coronavirus, I think, ten days ago. Did he give an explanation to you, fellow committee members, of why he was there in person instead of remotely?
Sen. Coons: Not to me, not that I remember. I'm certainly happy to go back and check, but I was surprised he was present. Senator Tillis has also tested positive. He questioned remotely yesterday. Frankly, Alisyn, I was more alarmed last Thursday when Mike Lee was also in the chamber with us here in the Kennedy Caucus Room, unmasked for a long period of time and gave about ten minutes of remarks at a very high level of agitation. I went home and got tested the next morning – I tested negative. I'm getting tested shortly here. I think every senator should be getting tested every day and should have to prove that they've tested negative on a reliable test in order to participate. That's the standard all of us Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had suggested, was that you should only participate in person if you test negative. It frankly, Alisyn, points to the broader question: why are we doing that at all in the middle of a pandemic instead of focusing on delivering a round of pandemic relief to millions of Americans who are unemployed, whose kids can't safely go to school, whose parents might be in skilled nursing facilities, who they’re worried about? Why aren't we doing our jobs? Instead we're rushing through this, racing through, with this partisan nominee.
Q: Senator Chris Coons, thank you very much for giving us your perspective on all of these things.
Sen. Coons: Thank you, Alisyn.