CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., spoke highly of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee following a meeting Wednesday between the senator and federal appeals judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Capito, who wants the Senate to consider Barrett’s nomination, said Barrett stressed in the meeting that judges should make decisions independently from their personal views.
“She is an extremely strong, ethical and experienced intellectual jurist,” Capito told reporters.
Trump announced the nomination of Barrett on Saturday. Barrett, if confirmed by the Senate, would fill the vacancy left following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18.
The Senate confirmed Barrett to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2017; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was one of three Democrats who backed confirmation.
“I think the fact that she was vetted very thoroughly three years ago helps shorten the process because background checks and investigations into writings have been very recent,” Capito said related to the current nomination process.
Senate Republicans have pushed for confirming a ninth justice, drawing ire from their Democratic colleagues who compared the current situation to Republicans’ refusal to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016. Republicans, including Capito, rejected moving forward with the nomination, citing that year’s presidential election.
Manchin has voiced opposition to moving forward with a nominee before the general election on Nov. 3, saying such procedures would “only fan the flames of division at a time when our country is deeply divided.”
Capito has noted differences between the Garland and Barrett nominations, namely Republicans controlling both the White House and Senate this year.
“I would say with the election of a Republican president and a Republican Senate and a reaffirmation of that again in 2018 with a pickup of two seats, I think that West Virginians believe, as I do, that President Trump should make the determinations, should make the pick,” Capito said Wednesday. “If we have the votes, we should move forward.”
Capito said she is hopeful the Senate will vote on the nomination before Election Day, which is 34 days from Wednesday.
“The way I look at it, the timing of this seems to flow very well and is not being a rushed process,” she added.
The Supreme Court’s term begins next Monday, and justices will in session until next June at the earliest.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments on Nov. 10 regarding the constitutionality of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Eighteen state attorneys general — including West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey — and the Justice Department are suing to overturn “Obamacare,” arguing Congress’ reduction of the individual mandate in the 2017 tax law made the provision and the rest of the health care law unconstitutional.
Barrett has criticized the court’s 2012 decision upholding “Obamacare;” she wrote in a 2017 academic article that Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
Capito said she and Barrett talked about the lawsuit, in which the nominee told the senator she could not make an opinion on a case before joining the court. The senator added Barrett will review the severability of the individual mandate and the entire law from a legal perspective.
“She demonstrated to me today that her legal background and her legal knowledge — even though she couldn’t talk about specifically what she would do — those arguments will be carefully considered,” the senator said.
The Senate on Wednesday voted 47-47 on tabling a legislative amendment for maintaining some protections on covering pre-existing conditions. Capito joined most Republicans in opposition to the motion, while Manchin supported the action.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has set a procedural vote for Thursday on legislation preventing the Justice Department from continuing its involvement in the lawsuit.
Capito noted Democrats are using health care as a “political scare tactic” amid a tense election season.
“Every year that I have run, almost, it’s ‘you’re going to lose your health care’ and ‘you’re going to lose your Social Security,'” she added. “This is part of a pretty much repeating charge in an election year.”
Barrett also met Wednesday with nine other Republican senators, including Senate Judiciary Committee members Thom Tillis of North Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas. The committee is will begin hearings on the nomination on Oct. 12.