Colorado’s Sen. Bennet: Barrett on High Court good for the exploitative 1%
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett declared on the floor of the Senate that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett will serve a corporate and political elite that has been trying to rule this republic and the rest of us since its founding. | John Locher/AP

WASHINGTON—Elevation of federal judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court is not just bad news for workers, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., says. It’s good news—and another chapter—in the crusade of the 1% and the corporate/political elite that has schemed to rule the republic, and the rest of us, ever since the U.S. was founded.

Bennet’s blistering tour through U.S. history came during the three-day highly partisan debate on Barrett’s nomination to the job by right-wing GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump.

Barrett, 48, a Notre Dame law school professor and three-year judge on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, won the High Court seat by a 52-48 Senate vote on Oct. 26. She was formally sworn in that evening.

Only Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, broke party lines. Collins made clear she opposed Barrett only because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rushed the confirmation through before the election. Collins was silent on Barrett’s merits.

But Collins was the key vote in confirming GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump’s second right-wing High Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh—a top issue now on the Maine campaign trail. Collins faces an extremely tough re-election fight on Nov. 3.

Barrett is Trump’s third successful High Court nominee. Off her past writings and rulings, Trump, McConnell, and other Republicans expect her to cement the High Court’s six-person GOP right-wing majority for decades.

Those writings and rulings led the Democratic senators to warn that workers’ rights, along with civil rights, the Affordable Care Act, reproductive rights, and even the outcome of the election, are in danger from Barrett and the court’s other right-wingers.

After all, they pointed out, as did McConnell with glee, that stocking the federal bench with conservatives—whom foes call ideologues in black robes—will have a long-lasting impact regardless of whether Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins.

While their speeches were stinging, his Democratic colleagues left it to Bennet, the former Denver school superintendent who made a brief run for the 2020 presidential nomination, to give the history tour.  He said Barrett is the product of elite powerful forces that go back through the history of the U.S., seeking to repress everyone else, including workers.

Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and other Democrats also mentioned Barrett’s anti-worker rulings as an appellate judge. But other than Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who detailed right-wing “dark money” enveloping both the pro-Barrett crusade and High Court cases—including the infamous anti-labor Janus v AFSCME case which made every state and local government worker a potential “free rider” of union services–none went into the historical details.

The Senate’s ruling Republicans, knowing they had the votes, on their own, to OK Barrett, never bothered to reply to any of the criticisms.

Instead, they extolled Barrett’s “originalism” and credentials and shrugged off Democratic complaints about the hypocrisy of shoving Barrett through a week before the election, and two weeks before the fate of the ACA comes before the High Court. On Nov. 10, the justices, including Barrett, will hear a GOP-crafted case to declare it unconstitutional and deprive millions of people of health care.

Bennet took his colleagues on a tour of U.S. history—and of repression by the 1%. That includes, though he did not mention it, the 1914 Ludlow Massacre of union miners, their wives and their children, by Rockefeller-hired police in Colorado.

“Since our founding, there have always been factions working toward an insidious purpose: To so degrade and discredit our national exercise in self-government [so] that when the people finally throw up their hands in disgust, these factions can distort it into an instrument for their interests instead of the public interest,” he began.

McConnell, Trump, and the right-wing House Freedom Caucus represent that faction, a “legion of deep-pocketed donors and PACs” who gain and keep power by “gerrymandering, voter suppression, and, in this case, cramming” Barrett onto the court.

“Over the years, earlier versions of these factions obscured their project with terms like ‘States’ rights,’ ‘originalism,’ ‘freedom’ and with dubious claims like ‘separate but equal.’”

“We saw it in the 1890s when the Supreme Court invoked freedom to strike down laws that would have let workers unionize, establish a minimum wage, prohibit child labor, and create a progressive income tax. We saw it most infamously in Plessy v. Ferguson when the same court hid behind equality to justify segregation.”

“We saw it in 1905 when the court perverted the 14th Amendment…to invent a ‘liberty to contract’ so bakeries could freely force people to work more than 60 hours a week. Just a few years after, 145 workers were burned alive at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory after their employer took the liberty of locking them inside.”

Bennet’s use of the word “liberty” was sarcastic. New York courts let the factory owners off the hook for the deaths at the sweatshop in Lower Manhattan in 1911.

“We saw it in the 1930s when the Supreme Court rewrote the Constitution’s “commerce clause in a failed attempt to eviscerate the New Deal, FDR’s historic effort to build an economy that lifted everyone up, not just those at the very top.

“We see it in our time, in Citizens United, Shelby County, and other rulings when the court asserted the right of billionaires and other privileged interests to corrupt our democracy while denying the American people’s right to defend it.

“And we see it in Judge Barrett’s adherence to originalism, the spurious legal doctrine knocking around in the Federalist Society and other circles of far-right lawyers. By claiming to stick to an 18th century understanding of the Constitution, originalism” would, among other disasters, not outlaw slavery, deprive women of the right to vote, bring back child labor and let food labels not tell the truth, all because the document’s authors did not include those bans, Bennet said.

The originalists, Barrett included, “are stealing the authority of the founders in an effort to conceal their reactionary project. And while the specific aims…changed over time, their project has remained the same: To protect their power and call it freedom.”

That includes “freedom to enslave, freedom to segregate, freedom to pay workers less than they can live on, to work them to death, to fire them because of what they believe or whom they love, to redline our neighborhoods, poison our skies, defund our schools, and buy our elections.

“At all times, though, their goal has been to preserve…the freedom to dominate others—not only to cement their power but to demolish the economic opportunity and civil rights that would otherwise empower their fellow Americans.”

The elite, the special interests and the 1% do so, Bennet claimed “because in truth, the original promise of America—that it would be a society in which all people would be created equal and endowed with equal rights—terrifies them.

“This confirmation is their latest ill-gotten victory. Judge Barrett’s nomination comes to this floor on a path cleared by the same deep-pocketed donors and corporations that have worked for decades to protect their power, regardless of the cost to the American people and their security, well-being, and civil rights.

“And based on everything I have learned about Judge Barrett’s record, I fear she will become one more predictable vote for that agenda,” he concluded.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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