Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Barrett declines to say whether a president can unilaterally delay election

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett declined to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday if she believes the president has the unilateral authority to delay an election, arguing that giving "off-the-cuff answers" would essentially make her a "legal pundit."

Why it matters: President Trump suggested he could delay the election earlier this year. But he has no authority to unilaterally do so under the Constitution. It would take a change in federal law to move the date of the election — which would have to be approved by both chambers of Congress.

What she's saying: Barrett was adamant about not voicing her opinions on potential cases throughout Tuesday's hearing, stating, "If that question ever came before me, I would need to hear arguments from the litigants and read briefs and consult with my law clerks and talk to my colleagues and go through the opinion-writing process."

  • "If I gave off-the-cuff answers then I would be basically a legal pundit, and I don't think we want judges to be legal pundits," she added.
  • "I think we want judges to approach cases thoughtfully and with an open mind."

The big picture: Barrett has been under pressure from Senate Democrats to address potential cases involving Trump, including disputes over the 2020 election results.

  • She testified that she has made "no commitment" to anyone in the executive branch over how she would rule on any cases, including abortion or the challenge to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Barrett also said she would "fully and faithfully apply the law of recusal" if necessary, but that she "can't offer an opinion on recusal without short-circuiting" the traditional process.
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