'Do you play piano?' and 11 other absurd questions from Barrett's hearing
There were some real doozies.
During the second day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing on her nomination to a seat on the Supreme Court, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked many questions. Some were rhetorical. Most were reasonable. And some were outright ridiculous.
Here are the worst 12 questions Barrett fielded from Senate Republicans throughout the course of the day.
1. How would you go about overturning Brown v. Board of Education?
Talking about superprecedent cases, those that are so widely accepted that they can be expected not to face serious legal challenges, Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) asked Barrett: “What’s the process that would lead to [Brown v. Board of Education] being overruled, what would have to happen?”
Barrett began to reply that a state would have to impose segregation again, but Graham immediately interrupted her and said that was unlikely to happen.
Whatever the reason, asking how to go about overturning Brown wasn’t a great look for a politician who came under fire just this week for racist remarks in a debate on Friday with the Democratic challenger for his Senate seat, Jaime Harrison.
2. Do you own a gun?
Barrett seemed visibly taken aback when Graham asked her if she owned a firearm.
Pausing for a moment, she responded that yes, she did.
But, he pressed, did she think she could fairly rule on cases relating to gun control measures given her gun ownership?
She replied in the affirmative.
3. Does your religion mean a lot to you?
Graham continued to steamroll over the nominee with seemingly stream-of-consciousness thoughts.
In a strange turn of events given Senate Republicans’ rabid contempt for anything resembling a “religious test” for public office, he was the only senator to directly ask her if her faith meant a lot to her. She said it did.
“You’ve chosen to raise your family in the Catholic faith?” he continued.
“Yes,” she said.
“Can you set aside your Catholic faith regarding any issue before you?” he asked.
She said yes.
4. Why is the First Amendment religious liberty?
Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) began his line of questioning by condemning Democrats for not asking enough questions.
“[We have] some of the smartest and most effective questioners on the Democratic side, and I think it speaks volumes that collectively they’ve had very few questions for you,” Cruz said, ignoring the fact that many Democrats had asked Barrett probing questions by that point.
Cruz’s question for Barrett: “Why is the First Amendment religious liberty? Why is that important?”
Barrett responded that the framers and ratifiers of the Constitution protected the free exercise of religion for “reasons we all know from history” regarding persecuted religious minorities.
“That’s why it was considered so fundamental,” she said.
He again asked her why it was considered so important, and she patiently responded that everything in the Bill of Rights is important.
4. Why is the Second Amendment important?
Cruz valiantly pressed on with an unsolicited history lesson for the Senate in basic civics.
“Why is the Second Amendment important?”
Barrett said that it was her understanding that it protects the right to bear arms for “self-defense.”
5. How about the free speech protections?
But Cruz wasn’t done. He next asked Barrett why free speech was important.
“So that minority viewpoints can’t be squashed,” Barrett said. “So [you don’t have] just a majority that can speak popular views.”
Cruz used her response to launch into an unrelated anti-abortion tirade against the “radical position” of Senate Democrats with “radical ideas when it comes to the Bill of Rights.” They don’t want to “require any restrictions on abortion whatsoever,” Cruz said.
And it would be fine if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, he argued, since abortions would still be available in liberal states like New York and California.
“Not a single Democrat is willing to acknowledge the radical sweep of their agenda, much less defend it,” Cruz railed.
6. Do you play the piano?
After his tirade, Cruz reassured Barrett that he would “not ask her to respond to any of that.”
Then he turned to personal questions with no bearing on Barrett’s confirmation proceedings.
“Do you speak any foreign languages?” he asked.
She said that she speaks some French but is out of practice.
“Do you play any instruments?” he continued.
She said she played the piano for about 10 years, though did not keep up with it regularly other than overseeing her children’s music lessons.
7. What was it like teaching children during a pandemic?
Cruz next asked Barrett about her experience teaching her children at home during the pandemic.
She said it was quite challenging, and that while her oldest children could supervise their own studies, she and her husband split duties for the younger children.
Cruz ended his line of questioning by expressing “admiration” for Barrett’s “remarkable” story of adopting two Black children from Haiti.
8. Why should we be friends with our political opponents?
Ben Sasse (NE) ended his time by asking Barrett about the friendship between the late Justice Antonin Scalia and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and what effect that had on Barrett.
Barrett, who considers herself Scalia’s protegee, said she finds it admirable as she too has many friends of different viewpoints and doesn’t see that as a reason to not continue a friendship.
9. Why do judges wear robes?
Sasse also was very curious as to why judges wear robes.
Barrett answered him saying that justices previously wore colorful robes, but noted that they began wearing black in 1801.
“In the beginning, justices used to wear colorful robes that identified them with the schools they graduated from,” Barrett said. “John Marshall, at his investiture, decided to wear a simple, black robe. Now all judges do it.”
Her personal opinion was that judges dress the same to show they are “standing united” in the “name of the law” and not “speaking for ourselves as individuals.”
10. What’s it like having Black children?
Sen. Josh Hawley (MO) praised Barrett for her “unique context” of having two Black children, and asked how that would inform her jurisprudence.
“You and your husband are the parents of a multiracial family,” he said. “Can you give us some sense just in your personal experience what that has been like for you, what that means to you, what experience you bring to the bench because of your experience as a parent in this unique context?”
Barrett said that her personal life would not “dictate how I decide cases.”
“In applying the law and deciding cases, [I] don’t let those experiences dictate the outcome,” she said.
11. Does the Constitution say anything about the size of the Supreme Court?
In an effort to get Barrett to agree with his attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Sen. Mike Lee (UT) asked her: “Does the Constitution say anything about the size of the Supreme Court?”
Barrett told him that the Constitution does not specify that nine judges must sit on the court and noted that the number has varied over time.
12. Are you taking notes?
Sen. John Cornyn (TX) quizzed Barrett on her notepad.
“Can you hold up what you’ve been referring to in answering our questions?” he asked. After she held up the pad, Cornyn asked, “Is there anything on it?”
Barrett informed him that she had not been taking notes, and Cornyn said he was impressed.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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