Oklahoma senators affirm support for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Oklahoma+Sen.+Jim+Inhofe+%28left%29+meets+with+Supreme+Court+Justice+nominee+Judge+Amy+Coney+Barrett+%28right%29+on+Oct.+21+at+the+US+Capitol.+Fellow+Oklahoma+Sen.+James+Lankford+also+met+with+Judge+Barrett+an+hour+earlier.+Gaylord+News%2FEmma+Sears

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (left) meets with Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett (right) on Oct. 21 at the US Capitol. Fellow Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford also met with Judge Barrett an hour earlier. Gaylord News/Emma Sears

Jessie Christopher Smith, Reporter

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma’s two senators pledged their support of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett with a vote looming late next week.

Both said they found her to be highly qualified to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away last month, setting off a high-stakes political fight from Democrats who have tried to slow the vote until after the Nov. 3 election. 

“After meeting with Judge Barrett today, hearing her testimony before the Judiciary Committee last week, and reviewing her background information, I’m confident that Judge Barrett is extremely well qualified and will be a fair justice on the Supreme Court,” said Sen. James Lankford.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, the state’s senior senator who has served in the Senate since 1994, was just as effusive.

“[Barrett] has a long record of upholding the right to life, respecting religious liberty and respecting judicial restraint. I look forward to receiving her nomination in the Senate and confirming her in a swift manner,” he said.

Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump seeking to swiftly fill the vacancy that will tip the court from a 5-4 conservative majority to a 6-3 majority.

Support for Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court has been entirely along partisan lines. Democratic lawmakers’ opposition to Barrett’s nomination has focused on a range of issues related to affordable healthcare, reproductive rights, the separation of church and state, and procedural precedent set by Senate Republicans more than four years ago.

In 2016 Majority Leader Mitch McConnell  (R-Ky.), refused to allow the Senate to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, Pres. Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term,” McConnell said the night of Ginsburg’s death, claiming that no Senate has confirmed a judicial nominee by an opposing party’s president in a general election year since the 1880s. “We kept our promise.” 

“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who grew up in Oklahoma, sharply criticized her Republican colleagues.

“Trump is often reckless and unpredictable, but when it comes to the courts, he has let Mitch McConnell run the show, methodically working with his right-wing overlords to flood the judicial system with narrow-minded lawyers who work for the wealthy and well-connected,” Warren said.

“We cannot stand down when Donald Trump tries to hand our highest court and the rights and liberties of the American people over to extremists,” she said.

But supporters of Barrett have pointed to her career as a judge on 7th U.S. Court of Appeals, her past as a professor at Notre Dame Law School, and her large family including two children adopted from Haiti. 

“Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to vilify this mother of seven children who has strong support from the legal community and her colleagues,” Lankford said. “I had the opportunity to thank her for [her] willingness to go through this painful process and for her work in over 600 cases as a circuit court Judge.”

During contentious Senate confirmation hearings for the week of Oct. 12, Barrett largely declined to comment about her views on various issues. Having clerked for late Justice Antonin Scalia, she said she holds an “originalist” view of the Constitution much like her mentor. 

Throughout Wednesday, Barrett also met with Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., John Barrasso, R-Wy., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. 

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.