US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has dodged a number of key questions at her senate confirmation hearing.
Ms Coney Barrett didn’t commit herself when she was quizzed on abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’).
Neither did she say whether she would recuse herself if the Supreme Court was forced to judge a legal dispute over the forthcoming election.
Asked by Democrat Senator Chris Coons if she would step aside temporarily, she did not give a yes or no answer.
Rather, she replied: “I would certainly hope that all members of this committee would have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people.”
Ms Coney Barrett, a social conservative and devout Catholic who currently serves as a federal appeal judge, has previously indicated that she is opposed to abortion, gay marriage, and Obamacare.
She was being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on day two of a four-day hearing.
On abortion, Ms Coney Barrett said she didn’t consider the 1973 Roe v Wade court ruling, which underpins the right to an abortion in the United States, as a “super precedent” – one so well established that over-ruling it would be “unthinkable”.
She was asked about a 2006 advert against abortion which she had signed in support of overturning the 1973 ruling. She explained that she had signed it as a private citizen but wouldn’t do so as a judge.
Ms Coney Barrett evaded a question about a peaceful transfer of power.
Senator Cory Booker asked: “Do you believe that every president should make a commitment, unequivocally and resolutely, to the peaceful transfer of power?”
Ms Coney Barrett replied: “That seems to me to be pulling me a little bit into this question of whether the president has said he would not peacefully leave office and so, to the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it.”
Democrat vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris pressed the Supreme Court nominee on the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is due to hear a challenge to the act on 10 November, seven days after the election.
Ms Harris said: “Republicans are scrambling to confirm this nominee as fast as possible because they need one more Trump judge on the bench before 10 November to win and strike down the entire Affordable Care Act.”
Senator Harris asked her if, prior to her nomination, she was aware of statements by President Trump committing to nominate judges who would “strike down” the act.
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She replied: “I don’t recall hearing about or seeing such statements. From my perspective, the most important thing is to say that I have never made a commitment, I’ve never been asked to make to make a commitment, and I hope that the committee would trust in my integrity not to even entertain such an idea and that I wouldn’t violate my oath if I were confirmed and heard that case.”
Ms Coney Barrett is halfway through a four-day confirmation hearing, having been nominated by President Trump to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court.
Mr Trump has said he wants her in place before the 3 November election – something that should be achieved thanks to the Republican majority in the Senate – but his opponents say the new appointment should wait until afterwards.
Confirmation of Ms Coney Barrett would shift the ideological balance of justices on the Supreme Court bench 6-3 conservatives over liberals.