POLITICS
29/09/2020 12:22 PM AEST | Updated 29/09/2020 8:22 PM AEST

GOP Sen. Joni Ernst Says There's A 'Very Minimal' Chance Roe v. Wade Will Be Overturned

Republican senators are trying to reassure voters the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court won’t lead to politically unpopular outcomes.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) says she doesn’t think the Supreme Court will overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling, even though she signed a brief urging the court to do so earlier this year.

“I think the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is very minimal. I don’t see that happening,” Ernst said Monday while facing off against Democrat Theresa Greenfield in a debate hosted by Iowa PBS.

Ernst’s comments were followed an hour later by Montana GOP Sen. Steve Daines arguing it was unlikely the court would strike down the Affordable Care Act because of a lawsuit he has long supported.

The combined effort makes it appear as if vulnerable Republicans senators are trying to convince voters Barrett won’t push for unpopular conservative policy goals, including the repeal of abortion rights and the elimination of Medicaid expansion, if she gains a seat on the nation’s highest court. 

Ernst, an anti-abortion senator who is seeking her second term this year, joined 38 of her Republican Senate colleagues in January in asking the Supreme Court to revisit and potentially overturn Roe, which protects the right to abortion. The “friend of the court” brief was also signed by 168 House members.

Conservatives are preparing for a showdown on abortion rights following President Donald Trump’s nomination last week of 48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett to fill the position made vacant by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18. Barrett is an appellate court judge who once clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Her confirmation, which looks all but certain in the GOP-controlled Senate, would solidify a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court for the foreseeable future.

The experts are saying it’s highly unlikely they’ll overturn the ACA. That’s the consensus of many legal experts.Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.

“She is certainly conservative in her views, in her rulings, and we’ll have to see how that all works out, but I think it will work out,” Trump said Monday during an interview with Fox News, adding that it is “certainly possible” that Roe will be overturned with Barrett on the court.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), an outspoken conservative who vowed to support only Supreme Court nominees who think Roe was wrongly decided, said last week that Barrett would meet his “standard” on abortion.

Though the Supreme Court may not move immediately to overturn Roe, it’s likely a conservative majority might allow states to pass more restrictions on the ability to obtain an abortion. 

Republicans are pushing a historically speedy timetable for confirming Barrett, with a final vote expected just days from the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Ernst, a member of GOP leadership in the Senate, supports moving forward with the confirmation of Trump’s nominee this presidential election year despite helping block President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court in 2016.

Iowa has turned into an unexpected battleground this election cycle. Trump won the Hawkeye State by 9.6 percentage points in 2016 but currently leads Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden among likely voters by only 3 points, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll published last week. Ernst trails Greenfield by 2 points, 40% to 42%, according to the same poll. 

A dramatic gender gap of 40 points in the state may be influencing how both Senate candidates are communicating with voters in the final weeks of the race.

Though Trump leads among men in Iowa by 21 points, Biden leads women by a similar margin, 20 points, according to a recent poll conducted by The Des Moines Register and Mediacom Iowa.

In Montana, Daines is in a tight race with Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. A New York Times/Siena College survey released last week showed the men effectively tied in the conservative-leaning but independent-minded state.

During a debate on Montana PBS on Monday night, Daines suggested the Supreme Court justices would not actually overturn the law known as Obamacare. 

“The experts are saying it’s highly unlikely they’ll overturn the ACA,” he said. “That’s the consensus of many legal experts.”

Daines backs the lawsuit, which argues the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down because Congress repealed the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance as part of the Republican tax law passed in 2017.

In July, a Daines spokesman told local newspapers the senator supported the Justice Department’s decision to support the lawsuit and “whatever mechanism will protect Montanans from this failed law.”

Most mainstream legal scholars, even conservative ones, consider the lawsuit thin. But Republican-appointed judges in Texas and on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals have advanced its arguments to the Supreme Court, and Barrett has been critical of the health care law in the past