Does Amy Coney Barrett hate medicine? I'm not asking whether she dislikes swallowing pills and anything that smacks of what my children refer to as "yucky medicine taste" and so prefers chewable bubblegum-flavored aspirin. I am thinking of something more visceral: seething rage at the thought that somewhere as I write this a child might be having his appendix removed instead of dying after it ruptures, or impassioned ranting against the iniquity of a widowed grandmother getting insulin for her diabetes.
I am asking because this kind of cartoon villainy is roughly the impression of Barrett's character one got after listening to hours of loose babble from Democrats during the first of four days of Senate hearings on her nomination to the Supreme Court. In Barrett's America, according to Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, bands of warlords will roam the streets shaking down St. Jude Mathathons and burning the results of screenings for testicular cancer. (The funny thing about the series of increasingly absurd sounding hypotheticals raised by Hirono about the consequences of Barrett's nomination for her own health is that at no point did she acknowledge that she has spent roughly half of her adult life eligible for the congressional health-care plan.)
As far as I can tell, the basis for all of this scaremongering is a single essay Barrett wrote in 2017. In the article, which is well worth reading for what it suggests about her views on a wide range of interesting questions, Barrett argues that by classifying the section of ObamaCare requiring Americans to purchase health as a tax, John Roberts and the other justices who upheld the individual mandate in NFIB v. Sibelius "pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute."
This is simply true. The idea that the individual mandate (which has not been enforced by the present administration and was eliminated in 2017 anyway) was a tax was dismissed by President Obama himself. The majority was guilty of what the late Justice Scalia called "jiggery-pokery."
Such an acknowledgement has absolutely no bearing on what Barrett might say about the rest of the law. Many supporters of the Affordable Care Act's few actually worthwhile provisions (including this columnist) are happy to dismiss Roberts' construal of the statute as a contemptible legal fiction while insisting that the expansion of Medicaid is not only constitutional but salutary. There are few if any reasons to think it likely that the Supreme Court, with or without Barrett on it, will strike down a law that even Senate Republicans have come reluctantly to accept in recent years.
Apart from these absurd insinuations about Barrett coming for your physical therapy pillow, the hearing was memorable largely for its technological mishaps. I have never felt more comfortable with the 17th amendment's insistence that the men and women of the Senate are the people's chosen representatives than I did seeing them struggle with Zoom like the rest of us. Headlines like "Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has seven kids. And don't you dare forget it," which is unusually nasty even by the standards of Jeff Bezos' newspaper, tell the story of Monday far more succinctly than I could. Because I do not make a habit of attempting psychosexual readings of the behavior of those with whom I disagree, I will not comment on the bizarre media fixation on a certain science fiction novel that forms the basis for comments like these:
Similar examples could be multiplied infinitely. But this bickering is pointless. The Barrett Death Star is fully operational. The vacancy is there. The nomination has been made. Republicans have the votes, and on Oct. 22, she will be confirmed as the 115th justice in the history of the Supreme Court.
I for one will rejoice.
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