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“A Barrett Confirmation Is a Catastrophe”: What Democrats Can Do to Block Trump’s Supreme Court Pick

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Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout says Senate Democrats can still block the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, if they use every possible procedural method available to them to slow and frustrate the process. “A Barrett confirmation is a catastrophe,” Teachout says. “A 6-3 majority on the court is basically a bomb coming at what is left of our protections against corruption in politics, against corporate money, against what is left of the Voting Rights Act.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I know you have to leave, but we wanted to get to Part 2 of this conversation, and that’s not about Google, but about Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett. In today’s headlines, we said that the Associated Press has revealed Supreme Court nominee Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of a private Christian school which barred openly gay teachers, effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents. Trinity Schools runs schools in Indiana, Minnesota, in Virginia, affiliated with the secretive religious group People of Praise, of which Barrett is a longtime member. That’s just the latest news. The schools teach that homosexuality is abomination against God. You have urged Senate Democrats to use every procedure possible to block her confirmation. Why?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: A Barrett confirmation is a catastrophe. We don’t know a fraction about her. This is like getting married in three weeks, except it’s not getting married, it’s choosing somebody who’s going to govern us, effectively, decide the rules of our democracy, the rules governing our bodies, the rules governing our intimate relationships, for 50 years. And we don’t actually need to know that much to know that a 6-3 majority on the court is basically a bomb coming at what is left of our protections against corruption in politics, against corporate money, what is left of the Voting Rights Act. I mean, this is an absolute 5-, 10-alarm fire catastrophe.

And the Democrats have not been, for instance, denying unanimous consent at every single vote, forcing McConnell to deliver every single senator every single moment. There’s techniques that have already — opportunities that have already passed. For instance, the Democrats could have had week-by-week continuing resolutions to keep the government going, forcing McConnell to produce his vulnerable senators. And there will be moments coming up this Thursday.

But what I hear from the Democrats is, “Well, that isn’t sure to work or isn’t likely to work.” That is not the question. If there is a one-in-500 chance that a two-hour delay caused by impeachment, let alone a day delay caused by impeachment, of Bill Barr, for instance, would lead to enough disruption that enough Republican senators would say, “McConnell, you’re asking too much. I’m not going to be there for you,” then we wouldn’t be leading into this catastrophe.

So, I think we really need to see, in these last few days, Democrats aligned on a very clear message about the whole, the altogether illegitimacy of this process and the catastrophic danger of this nomination.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Zephyr Teachout, in the eventuality that she is confirmed, there’s been increasing debate over what can be done to counter the court packing that has been going on now for several years on the part of the Republicans in the federal judiciary. I’m wondering your thoughts on this whole issue of expanding the Supreme Court, if Joe Biden is elected and the Democrats gain control of both houses.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Well, I have been arguing for rebalancing the court for a long time, that we — I think it is a small-D democratic necessity. It’s solidly constitutionally grounded. And after the court, Justice Roberts, in a grotesquely innovative — which is to say he made it up — theory, struck down the Voting Rights Act, it became very clear that we needed a rebalancing of the court and a new understanding of this institution, as well as thinking about shorter terms for justices. I think that is absolutely necessary.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally — and I know you have to go — the Supreme Court decision that just came out —

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: — around voting rights, the Supreme Court issuing a 4-to-4 ruling on a voting rights case in Pennsylvania, so significant because this was a victory for voting rights advocates. It shows the court is evenly divided on these issues. Of course, the election is going to be key. If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, she would break that tie. The significance of this?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: The both short- and long-term significance of this is extraordinary, because this is about the court reviewing state constitutional decisions about what those local state constitutions require. And you have this very dangerous, radical perspective by four members of the Supreme Court, which Amy Barrett would join, which would jump in and second-guess those states’ constitution-based decisions, which have been important in allowing people’s votes to be counted in this election. So, we could see a Justice Barrett being a tiebreaker in suppressing votes in this upcoming election and changing the outcomes of the votes that are happening right now for the November 3rd election.

AMY GOODMAN: Why haven’t Democrats pushed harder, do you think?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I am pulling my hair out about this. Sorry to be so — well, I’m not sorry to be so blunt about it. There is such a deep misunderstanding of risk, and short-termism, and a failure to understand the scope of this catastrophe, and complacency and sclerosis. And I think — you know, what I hear is people say things like, “That is not likely to work.” Well, I will tell you, whether you talk to a serious death penalty lawyer defending their client on death row or a serious corporate lawyer defending against a corporate takeover, their answer to that question is, “If we’ve got a one-in-100 chance, we are going to file that motion.” And we just don’t have that approach in the Senate or in the House.

AMY GOODMAN: Zephyr Teachout, we want to thank you so much for being with us, professor of law at Fordham University and author of the new book Break ’Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a shocking arrest in Los Angeles airport, the former Mexican defense chief, the defense secretary. We’ll talk about the implications of this for the drug trade, as well as human rights abuses and murders of activists in Mexico. Stay with us.

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