Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. She is exceptionally intelligent, academically astute and impeccably credentialed. She has a record of sound opinions and temperament as a Judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Her life experiences provide her with valuable perspective and evident wisdom. Perhaps most important, she is a woman of unquestionable character and integrity, the presence of which is essential to our nation as the confidence of the Court itself is in balance. I will be honored to vote to confirm her nomination.
Mr. President, I also rise to address my concern regarding the division and the contempt for others that is growing among many of our citizens. The causes of this malady are many and varied but one to which I draw attention is the declining trust held by the citizenry in our many institutions.
A democratic republic is highly dependent upon the confidence of its people in the institutions that lie at its foundation. These include churches, schools, governments at all levels, the press, corporations, markets, and most relevant today, the justice system and the courts. Absent public confidence in these institutions, a democratic republic will not thrive or perhaps endure.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court enjoys a great deal of respect from the American people. Unfortunately, the third branch may be one of the few institutions of our democratic republic that is not experiencing a collapse in public trust.
Our churches have been diminished by scandal and by politicization.
Trust in local law enforcement has fallen as we have witnessed some officers—who have sworn to protect our communities—endanger the lives of citizens. While this is particularly true for citizens of color, the demonstrations by millions of Americans are evidence that the distrust is broadly shared.
Trust in the FBI and the Intelligence Community, long admired for their integrity and professionalism, has withered with the attacks by politicians of both parties, though admittedly, my party has been the more vocal. What a message it sends when the President accepts the word of the Russian president rather than the conclusions of our intelligence agencies.
Even the CDC and the FDA have fallen in credibility, due both to inevitable human error and to blistering political attacks.
The free press is not only protected by the Constitution, it is critical to the preservation of democracy. Here too, charges of “fake news” and claims that the press is “the enemy of the people” – worsened by the media’s constant amplification of divisiveness – have so diminished the trust many Americans have in the media that they instead believe bizarre, anonymous conspiracy theories on the internet.
Now, more than at any other time during my lifetime, it is essential that the Supreme Court retain the trust of the nation. It may be one of the very few, if not the only, of the institutions in which the great majority of Americans have confidence.
That is why Judge Barrett’s integrity, wisdom, and commitment to the rule of law is so important: she will be critical to the preservation of the public’s perception of the legitimacy of the Court.
Judge Barrett wrote in the Texas Law Review that, “If the Court’s opinions change with its membership, public confidence in the Court as an institution might decline. Its members might be seen as partisan rather than impartial and case law as fueled by power rather than reason.”
Consideration of institutional legitimacy has long been a factor in the Court’s deliberations. But I would argue that this factor should be given even greater weight today, as so many of our other institutions are diminished and under attack.
This would be particularly true were the Court called upon to decide a matter that would determine the outcome of a presidential election. In my view, it is of paramount importance that such a decision follow the law and the Constitution where it leads, regardless of the outcome – and thereby be beyond reproach, clearly non-political, and preferably unanimous.
The Senate will soon send Judge Barrett to the highest Court in the land. I am confident that she is up to the measure of the times in which we now live. May God bless her and her family as they begin this next chapter of service to our nation.