Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett fired back at Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, saying that one of the questions he asked her Wednesday would force her to violate the canons of conduct.
Barrett was just a few hours into her third day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Capitol Hill when Durbin suggested that she was evading a question that should have a simple answer. (RELATED: Dick Durbin Blames Trump Tweets For Democrat Attacks On Amy Coney Barrett’s Independence)
“And so if I change Senator Feinstein’s question and did not ask you whether the president has the authority to delay a general election, and ask you does the president have the authority to unilaterally deny the right to vote to any person based on their race, what would your answer be?” Durbin asked.
Barrett pointed to a number of laws on the books, including the Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits discrimination based on race, and the 15th Amendment, which specifically protects the right to vote against racial discrimination.
Durbin responded by reading the text of the 15th Amendment: “‘The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race.’ For an originalist and a textualist, that is clear text as I see it, but when asked whether or not the president has any authority to unilaterally deny that right to vote for a person based on race or even gender, are you saying you can’t answer that question?”
“I just referenced the 14th and 15th Amendments, the same one that you just repeated back to me, that do prohibit discrimination on the basis of race in voting. So as I said, I do not know how else I can say it, the Constitution contains provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race in voting,” Barrett replied.
“But whether the president can unilaterally deny, you cannot answer yes or no?” Durbin tried again.
“I really can’t say anything more, I’m not going to answer hypotheticals,” Barrett said.
“That strains originalism if the clear wording of the Constitution establishes a right and you will not acknowledge it,” Durbin pushed harder.
“Well, Senator, it would strain the canons of conduct, which do not permit me to offer off-the-cuff reactions or any opinions outside of the judicial decision-making process,” Barrett pushed back. “It would strain Article Three, which prevents me from deciding legal issues outside of the context of cases and controversies, and as Justice Ginsburg said, it would display disregard for the process.”
Durbin abruptly changed the subject then, moving on. “Let’s take it to the case we discussed before,” he said.