By Lawrence Hurley and Patricia Zengerle and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Judge Amy Coney Barrett, chosen by US President Donald Trump to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, said on Tuesday at a Senate confirmation hearing that he is not hostile to Obamacare, as Democrats hinted , and declined to specify whether it believes that historic verdicts that legalized abortion and gay marriage were adequate.
Barrett, a conservative judge at an appeals court, answered questions from senators for the first time, on the second day of her confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which offered her a chance to respond to Democrats who had joined in opposition to her name, mainly because of its possible role in the suppression of the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare and its protection for patients with pre-existing diseases.
Trump asked the Senate to confirm Barrett before the November 3 election, in which he seeks a second term.
Barrett declined to say whether he would omit any case related to the election that reaches the court. The president, a Republican, said he expects the Supreme Court to decide the outcome of the election, in which he faces Democrat Joe Biden.
The judge said that no one in the White House asked for a commitment from her regarding how she would speak on this issue or any other.
“It would be a gross violation of judicial independence for me to make any such commitment or to be asked about this case,” Barrett told the committee about possible electoral cases.
She declined to say whether she would consider moving away, as Democrats requested, from an Obamacare case that is due to go to court a week after election day, in which Trump and Republican-led states try to invalidate the Affordable Care Act ( ACA), known as Obamacare.
Barrett noted that the new case revolves around a different legal issue than the two previous Supreme Court verdicts that held Obamacare – and which she criticized. The judge did not say how she would approach the case, but added: “I am not hostile to the ACA”.
She also said the White House had not asked for its guarantee that it would vote to overturn the law.
“Absolutely not. I was never asked, and if they had asked, this conversation would have been short.”