Amy Coney Barrett vowed to remain independent of external political pressures and her own policy preferences as she spoke about preserving the Constitution during a ceremonial Supreme Court swearing-in event.
She did so standing next to President Trump just outside the White House roughly an hour after the Senate confirmed her to the highest court in the land in a close vote marked by Democrats opposing her nomination so close to Election Day.
“The confirmation process has made ever clearer to me one of the fundamental differences between the federal judiciary and the United States Senate. And perhaps the most acute is the role of policy preferences. It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty for her to put policy goals aside. By contrast, it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give in to them,” Barrett said during a short speech after being sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
“Federal judges don’t stand for election, thus they have no basis for claiming that their preferences reflect those of the people. This separation of duty from political preference is what makes the judiciary distinct among the three branches of government,” she added. “A judge declares independence, not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her. The judicial oath captures the essence of the judicial duty — the rule of law must always control.”
Earlier Monday evening, the Republican-majority Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted 52-48 to elevate Barrett from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court following a weekend and a day of debate. Barrett, beloved by conservatives, filled the vacancy left by liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death on Sept. 18.
The oath itself, in which Barrett swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” was administered by Thomas, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush who was himself confirmed following a contentious Senate process led by former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and current 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Barrett’s husband, Jesse, held the Bible as the now-justice took the oath and as Trump looked on.
“My fellow Americans: Even though we judges don’t face elections, we still work for you,” Barrett promised after she was sworn in. “It is your Constitution that establishes the rule of law and the judicial independence that is so central to it. The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences. I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes — and I will devote myself to preserving it.”
In introducing Barrett before her swearing in and her speech, Trump said, “Because of our Constitution and our culture of freedom, you live in a land where anything is possible, and where any dream can come true. No matter who you are, no matter your background, in America, everyone is entitled to protection under our laws, and your sacred rights can never, ever be taken away. The march of liberty that began with the American Revolution continues onward this evening. … Justice Barrett, as you take your oath tonight, the legacy of our ancestors falls to you.”
The speeches by Trump and Barrett were delivered on the South Lawn of the White House, where high-profile guests and politicos sat spaced out with masks on. After her remarks, Trump and Barrett climbed the stairs up to the White House balcony, where they were quickly joined by first lady Melania Trump and Barrett’s husband.
Barrett is Trump’s third nominee to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, following Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
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