Amy Coney Barrett emerges as a front-runner to fill Ginsburg Supreme Court seat

Amy Coney Barrett

University of Notre Dame | Reuters

Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has emerged as a front-runner to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, three sources told NBC News.

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have vowed to nominate and vote on a replacement for Ginsburg with the presidential election less than two months away.

Barrett, who was appointed by Trump and has served on the federal appeals court in Chicago since 2017, was on a list of potential nominees Trump updated earlier this month. She was also among those considered to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy when he retired in 2018.

To fill Kennedy’s spot, Trump ultimately picked Brett Kavanaugh instead, an establishment Republican figure who angered some on the religious right for not being conservative enough even as he set off storms of panic on the left. Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported in 2019 that Trump said he was “saving [Barrett] for Ginsburg.”

Though any confirmation fight in the midst of a presidential election will be hard fought, the battle is expected to be amplified if Barrett is picked, because of her track record. In particular, critics of Barrett have zeroed in on her prolific academic writings, in which she raised questions about the importance of respecting precedent and referred to “unborn victims” of abortion.

In a 2013 article in Notre Dame’s quarterly alumni magazine, Barrett is paraphrased as saying the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade, the decision which legalized abortion nationwide, created “through judicial fiat a framework of abortion on demand.”

Barrett said in a 2013 speech at Notre Dame, however, that it is “very unlikely at this point that the court is going to overturn Roe [v. Wade].”

“The controversy right now is about funding,” she said, according to Notre Dame’s student newspaper. “It’s a question of whether abortions will be publicly or privately funded.”

During the 2016 hearings for her nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, pressed Barrett on whether her Catholic faith would cloud her legal judgment.

“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” Feinstein said during the hearing.

Barrett responded: “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”

—CNBC’s Brian Schwartz and Tucker Higgins contributed to this report. 

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