The Senate’s Obligation is to the American People

The speed of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination shows senators can make progress quickly if they care enough. Right now, they must care about the American people and focus on COVID-19 relief.

Amy Coney Barrett: The Senate’s Obligation is to the American People
Scenes at the Supreme Court right after the announcement of the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

As we approach the eighth month of living with the devastating ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 225,000 Americans are dead and more than 30 million people have lost their jobs.

Nevertheless, the leaders of our government have decided to focus on the Supreme Court confirmation of a person who has served as a federal judge for just under three years rather than working on a compromise to provide much needed relief to the tens of millions of Americans in need of support. 

The Senate, like all of our elected bodies, has an obligation to prioritize the American people—especially those most marginalized and disenfranchised. 

It is baffling to understand how the Senate could focus on anything other than passing comprehensive COVID-19 relief legislation. People are still dying, with new cases appearing in high numbers and staying higher.

Adding more harm to the situation, the nominee that the Senate has spent its time rushing through has openly shared her desire to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which protects access to health care for millions. Among them are 130 million people with preexisting conditions, which now includes millions of COVID-19 survivors, as well as the many hundreds of thousands of people who use the ACA for birth control coverage, mammograms and more. 

Amy Coney Barrett: The Senate’s Obligation is to the American People
Outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 12 as the Judiciary Committee hearings begin for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

This, of course, would not impact senators personally, since they have access to quality health care for life—a perk that any member of Congress has after serving for five years. As such, they seem to be out of touch with the needs of the American public. As the leader of an organization that advocates for the rights of women, children and families, I can affirm that Americans want to live in a world where they can access safe health care including abortions.

A majority of Americans (58 percent) don’t want the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. As the landmark health care law is set to go before the high court in November, Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s likely confirmation could all but ensure the law is overturned.

We must follow in the footsteps of the honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We must dissent.

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We must dissent to this highly politicized process of rushing through a nominee without proper vetting from the American people.

We must dissent to the very decision to move forward with this process before Justice Ginsburg was even buried—despite her dying wish that her seat be filled after the next presidential inauguration.

We must dissent to the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice when we are still in the middle of a deadly global health pandemic.

We must dissent to this confirmation happening as the presidential election is well underway with tens of millions having already voted.

We must dissent to the prioritization of politics over people. 

The next justice on the Supreme Court should be thoroughly vetted, as they have the power to influence every aspect of public policy. They will make decisions every day about health care, reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, voting rights, the environment, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ protections, civil rights and more.

These decisions impact our lives today, yes—yet we also know the lasting effects they can have on the most vulnerable members of our communities for generations to come. 

The speed in which Judge Amy Coney Barrett is being rushed through a Supreme Court vetting process shows that senators can indeed make progress quickly if they care enough about the issue at hand. Right now, they need to care about the American people and focus on COVID-19 relief. 

I urge you to call your senators at (202) 224-3121 or send them an email. and ask them to vote no on Judge Barrett’s confirmation and instead turn their focus back to providing immediate support to the countless Americans impacted by the pandemic. Lives depend on it.

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Sheila Katz is the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.