“She is certainly conservative in her views, in her rulings, and we’ll have to see how that all works out but I think it will work out,” the president told Fox & Friends Weekend of his new nominee.
Asked if Barrett, if confirmed, would be part of a 6-3 conservative-liberal ruling “on a life issue”, Trump said: “It’s certainly possible. And maybe they do it in a different way. Maybe they’d give it back to the states. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Progressives and Democrats fear the Indiana appeals judge’s strict Catholicism and conservative views will colour any rulings on abortion rights arising from any of 17 cases currently making their way through the courts.
They also worry about the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance to millions. An attempt to strike it down is due before the court on 10 November.
On Sunday, Trump’s opponent in the 3 November presidential election, Joe Biden, framed Barrett’s confirmation as a fight for the healthcare law. Speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, he said Trump had “laid out clearly what his objective is, terminate Obamacare.
“Women could once again be charged higher premiums just because they are women; pregnancy could become a pre-existing condition again; seniors will see their prescription drug prices go up and the funding for Medicare go down.
“It doesn’t matter what the American people want, President Trump sees the chance to fulfill his explicit mission, steal away the vital protections of the ACA from countless families who’ve come to rely on it for their health, their financial security and the lives of those they love.”
Republicans in the Senate are rushing to confirm Barrett. Democrats opposing them are backed by polling which shows majorities saying the next president should choose the replacement for the liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died aged 87 last week. But on Sunday the Senate minority whip, Dick Durbin of Illinois, told ABC’s This Week: “We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most, but we can’t stop the outcome.”
Biden made an impassioned plea to Republicans.
“Take a step back from the brink, take off the blinders of politics for just one critical moment, stand for the constitution you swore to uphold,” he said.
“This is a time to de-escalate, to put an end to the shattering of precedents, the strong-arming of the nation and the chaos of this president. Just because you have the power to do something doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to do right by the American people.”
Any effect on the election remains of course to be seen. Biden leads national and most swing state polls. Trump focused on the issue in Pennsylvania on Saturday night and returned to it at the White House on Sunday evening, seeking to divert from a bombshell New York Times report on his taxes. Debbie Stabenow, a Democratic senator from Michigan, another battleground state, told Fox News Sunday she thought Barrett would strike down the ACA.
A focus on the ACA, rather than a narrower emphasis on abortion, worked for Democrats in 2018, when they took back the House. On Sunday, House speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s State of the Union: “The antidote to whatever [Trump] does is to vote, vote, vote. Vote for affordable care, vote for your pre-existing condition, vote for your safety and vote for your health.”
The court upheld the ACA in 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts the swing vote. On Fox News Sunday, Eugene Scalia, the US labor secretary and son of the late justice Antonin Scalia, for whom Barrett clerked, dismissed the importance of Barrett having attacked Roberts for that decision.
“It’s a red herring,” he said. “It reflects frustration on the part of the Democrats as to how they might attack the nomination.”
Trump has placed two conservatives on the court. The second was Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation was dominated by allegations of sexual assault he vehemently denied.
On Saturday, Senate judiciary chair Lindsey Graham told Fox News it was “appropriate to challenge the nominee” but if Democrats “treat Judge Barrett like they did Justice Kavanaugh, it’s going to blow up in their face big time”.
John Kennedy of Louisiana told Fox News Sunday: “If my Democratic friends want to turn [hearings] into an intergalactic freak show, bring back the protesters with the genitalia-shaped headgear, I can’t stop them.” The Republican also said he wanted “to be assured [Barrett was] not one of these justices that tries to rewrite the constitution to advance a political agenda voters won’t accept”.
The court has not always ruled in Trump’s favour, recently upholding LGBTQ+ rights and blocking moves on immigration. The president told Fox: “You know, you think you know somebody and then you get rulings a little bit different than you think could happen.”
Those rulings saw Roberts and in the LGBTQ+ case Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch side with the liberals.
Shoring up support from evangelicals, whose leaders he met before unveiling Barrett, Trump has committed to choosing anti-abortion justices. He told Fox that with Barrett, he “didn’t discuss certain concepts and certain things. And some people say you shouldn’t. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t. But I decided not to do it.”
When nominating Kavanaugh, Trump was reported to have said he was “saving” Barrett “for Ginsburg”.
In a statement, Alexis McGill Johnson of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said: “Barrett’s history of hostility toward reproductive health and rights, expanded healthcare access and more demonstrate that she will put Justice Ginsburg’s long record of ensuring that everyone receives equal justice under the law at risk.”