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Grassley: Barrett has been ‘very transparent’ in answering questions

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, before which Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett appeared Tuesday to answer lawmakers’ questions. Grassley joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Barrett’s “outstanding credentials,” why he is satisfied with her hearing responses and whether he regrets voting not to confirm Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

    Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

    Tell us, first of all, what is your overall impression of Judge Barrett so far?

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa:

    Well, I think that she's got outstanding credentials.

    And she demonstrates that in her appearance before us, in the answers to the questions. I think she's very transparent.

    But when you come with a background she did, as working for Silberman as clerk and for Scalia as a clerk, and then being number one in her Notre Dame class, and then getting tenured professorship real easy, and then we have got 100 cases of hers on the Circuit Court of Appeals, so, in every way, she's very transparent, from the standpoint of her work as judge and law professor.

    But she's also very transparent as a person. But she's got impeccable credentials. And I don't think there's any — I haven't heard from either Republicans or Democrats any dispute of that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We just heard Senator Dick Durbin say that his concern, other Democrats are concerned that this is a nominee who President Trump believes he can count on to overturn the Affordable Care Act and overturn Roe v. Wade.

    Do you think she will do those things?

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley:

    Well, she made very clear that there's no basis for the president to assume anything about her, because they never had any discussion whatsoever with either the president of the United States or anybody connected with the president of the United States about how she might rule in the future.

    And then she has her reputation as three years on the Circuit Court of Appeals. And she also has what she has told us, that she goes to the court with no agenda.

    And I — as a farmer, let me explain it this way. I think she's made very clear that she's going to look at the facts of the case and the law, and apply — and just apply those things in making a decision.

    And I think she's shown that three years on the Circuit Court of Appeals. So, I don't think there's any basis for anybody, Republican or Democrat, to have any reason from the hearings or anything from her three years on the Circuit Court that she isn't anything but a person that's a strict constructionist, in other words, leaving her own personal views out of a decision, and looking at the law and the facts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But even — even if you set aside the hearing, based on her writings, based on what's known to be her philosophy, do you expect her, if it comes up, to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and to undo or overturn the Affordable Care Act?

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley:

    No, from this standpoint, that we don't even know what those cases are going to be.

    But let's say if it affected the ACA with a severability cause, I haven't heard anybody expect the case just to be 100 percent overthrown, maybe parts of it. But — and, also, Roe v. Wade, not only is a precedent of 50 years, but there's a super precedent of 30 years that would kind of dictate that the court wouldn't overturn it.

    Now, I'm speaking as a pro-life person. I don't like that Roe v. Wade is on the books. But you also got to be a realist, realist about how these cases come. We don't even know what case might come. And most of the cases that have come to the court on abortion, as an example, have been state laws, not ruling out abortion, but putting some restrictions on it, like maybe having a period of time to — for the mother to think about 24 hours for an abortion. That's a simple one.

    But there's been others as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, if for any reason, this presidential election is disputed, and it ends up at the Supreme Court, do you think Judge, then Justice Barrett, if she's on the court, should recuse herself?

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley:

    Oh, well, she's made very clear that there's a whole process going through recusal, and she's going to go through that process. And there's no way she could tell us today she's going to recuse or not.

    But you have — you talk to — you talk to colleagues. You — there's precedent for recusal. And you have got people that are thinking of it very deeply. But she herself will make that decision.

    But she doesn't do it without consultation with other eight people on this Supreme Court. And she doesn't do it without following precedent of the Supreme Court.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, I know you know that, in 2016, when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, you issued a statement saying, it was the Senate's responsibility not to support a nomination during a presidential election year, that the American people shouldn't be denied a voice.

    Why is this nomination different?

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley:

    So, in 2016, when I was holding up the — not having a hearing, not going forward with it, at that particular time, there was a historical reason for not doing it.

    But I was also asked at that time, when I wasn't going to have a hearing — and all of my town meetings were very controversial on this subject. I was asked, would you — what would you do in 2020? I said, I would not have a hearing if I were chairman.

    I'm not chairman. Graham is chairman. I'm a member of that committee. I have a responsibility to do my work as a member of that committee. So, Chairman Graham made the decision, and we're moving ahead, based on what the chairman said.

    I'm keeping my word the people of Iowa, because I'm not chairman of the committee.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One other things, Senator.

    You voted against the confirmation of both Justices Sotomayor and Justice Kagan. Have you had any reason to regret those votes?

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley:

    I think, in the case of Kagan, yes, in the case of Sotomayor, not — not — not so.

    But don't forget, those are the only two justices of all the justices that I have heard hearings on and voted on since 1980 that I have voted against.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just briefly, why regret Justice Kagan?

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley:

    Well, because I think Justice Kagan has proved herself in five or six years to not be the idealist that I think Sotomayor is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, we will leave it there.

    Senator Chuck Grassley, thank you very much.

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley:

    Thank you.

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