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U.S. Supreme Court nominee meets Capito

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., meets with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Comey Barrett. (Photo Provided)

CHARLESTON — President Donald Trump is pulling out all the stops to ensure his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court gets confirmed, with federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett meeting with Republican U.S. senators and sending out surrogates to defend her qualifications.

Barrett — a judge on the 11-member U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit serving Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin — spent the past two days on Capitol Hill meeting with Republican senators. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito met with Barrett Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking on a conference call shortly after the meeting with Barrett, Capito said she met with Barrett for about 15 minutes and discussed multiple issues, including her prior judicial opinions, her passion for the law, and her family life. Capito said was impressed by Barrett’s credentials.

“She is an extremely strong, ethical, and experienced intellectual jurist,” Capito said. “It was very clear to me she had a strong commitment to the rule of law, carefully considering the text and the history of our Constitution and some of the challenges that brings, considering the Constitution was written in the 1700s and we now have all kinds of differing ways of conducting our lives.”

Capito said the two also spoke about the significance of having another woman on the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Barrett would be the fifth woman to sit on the bench since the late justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the high court in the 1980s.

“She talked about the next generation of women and girls and what it means to her,” Capito said. “We felt like we had common ground here to be walking in other women’s shoes, but also inspire a next generation.”

Barrett was nominated by Trump to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who died Sept. 18 after succumbing to metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87. Ginsberg served on the court since appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Trump appointed Barret to the Seventh Circuit in 2017 and has already gone through the Senate confirmation hearings and consent process once. She previously served as a constitutional law professor at the University of Notre Dame and clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in her early career.

“She expressed the opinion the justices are not policy makers and should set those beliefs behind and make judgments independently,” Capito said. “She’s very well respected in the legal community and is very fair-minded. I look forward to the continuing of the process.”

The Trump presidential campaign held a conference call with West Virginia media Monday with Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va. Morrisey praised Barrett’s qualifications, calling her the right choice for the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court.

“As the state’s chief legal officer, I take very seriously who sits on the federal bench, especially at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Morrisey said. “I’m just thrilled that President Trump has made such a terrific nomination in Amy Coney Barrett. She’s widely regarded as a great jurist. She has amazing legal credentials.”

Morrisey said West Virginia has a number of legal cases that could come before the Supreme Court involving second amendment rights, abortion, and energy, though he didn’t bring up the Texas-led lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act. Morrisey is one of 20 states that joined together to file suit over what’s often called ObamaCare.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case Tuesday, Nov. 10. According to the liberal Center for American Progress, 162,000 West Virginians could lose their health insurance depending on how the high court rules, while 716,400 West Virginians with pre-existing medical conditions could see their insurance premiums rise. The state could also be on the hook for $1 billion due to the expansion of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

When asked about the case, Morrisey said the media has exaggerated the importance of the Barrett nomination in regard to the ACA case and its possible impact. He believes the Supreme Court will send the case back to the lower courts in order to sever the unconstitutional parts from the ACA while leaving in place the health insurance already in place.

“I think that the media is overstating the impact of this on this issue,” Morrisey said. “It’s clear the individual mandate should be struck down, but I’ve always believed this was going to be sent back to the district court for a severability analysis. Ultimately, these are issues that are going to get decided in terms of what gets severed or not on the local level.”

Barrett’s nomination is considered controversial by some due to its timing. Democrats have called for a delay in nominating a replacement for Ginsberg until after the results of the presidential election are determined.

“It’s not a similar situation because four years ago the Republicans were in the majority with a Democratic president, so it’s a different scenario,” Morrisey said. “Republicans have given us a Republican president and a Republican majority in the Senate now. That’s different than four years ago.

Democrats point to the effort by former President Barack Obama to nominate federal Judge Merrick Garland during the final year of his presidency to replace Scalia. The U.S. Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., never took up the nomination. Senate Democrats have called the Senate Republican majority hypocritical for allowing Barrett’s nomination to go forward during an election year while blocking Garland’s nomination four years ago.

“Of course, four years ago all the Democrats were complaining that they didn’t confirm Merritt Garland, so I think it’s hypocritical of them to complain now,” Mooney said. “I’m glad (Trump) is moving quickly. I think the voters of this country expect the President to fill this position and I think they expect the Senate to confirm or at least vote on confirming.”

Capito said that Republicans carrying both the White House and Senate in 2016 and the keeping the Senate majority in 2018 — coupled with the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Senate Democrats during his nomination process two years ago — helped her decide to back the process to replace Ginsberg during the election year. Capito said she expects a swift confirmation process before the Nov. 3 election.

“I think West Virginians believe as I do that President Trump should make the determination and make the pick, and if we have the votes we should move forward,” Capito said. “Elections have certain consequences, and this is one of them. I think it’s been reaffirmed that when presidents are of the same party as the Senate, the confirmation of Supreme Court justices have moved forward.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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