WASHINGTON -- Arkansas' two Republican U.S. senators portrayed Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday as an outstanding Supreme Court nominee and promised to move forward with the confirmation process.
Anti-abortion activists also welcomed the selection of Barrett -- a former Notre Dame professor, Catholic and mother of seven -- who currently serves as a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Abortion rights activists condemned the selection.
In a written statement Saturday evening, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Little Rock offered unqualified support.
"Judge Amy Coney Barrett is one of the finest legal minds of her generation and has now proven to be a wise judge as well," he said. "The Senate voted to confirm Judge Barrett to the Court of Appeals not even three years ago; since then, she has exceeded our high expectations for faithfully applying the law and upholding our Constitution. I therefore look forward to voting promptly for Judge Barrett next month and confirming her to the highest court in the land."
U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers said he approves of Barrett's judicial philosophy.
"With her extensive legal and academic experience, she is well-qualified for the job. As with previous justices nominated by President [Donald] Trump, Judge Barrett has shown that she understands her Constitutional role and refrains from legislating from the bench," he said in a written statement. "I have every reason to believe she will continue that same approach on the nation's highest court. I look forward to meeting her and evaluating her nomination on the merits as the Senate proceeds with the confirmation process."
Arkansas opponents of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision striking down state anti-abortion laws, said Barrett's nomination is a welcome development.
"We are thrilled. I mean, we couldn't ask for a better conservative woman to be on the court, to interpret the Constitution the way it should be -- strictly, by the letter of the [law]," said Arkansas Right to Life executive director Rose Mimms.
Asked whether Roe is more likely to be overturned if Barrett is confirmed, Mimms said: "With a conservative justice like Judge Barrett our hopes are raised."
In a written statement, an abortion rights activist called Barrett's nomination "unconscionable" and called on the Senate to delay a vote until after the election.
"We at Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes in Arkansas will fight ruthlessly to live up to the expectations Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg set and to honor her memory," said Gloria Pedro, the group's manager of public policy and organizing in the state.
"The selection of Amy Coney Barrett is an egregious affront to the lifetime of work Justice Ginsberg contributed to this country, as well as a slap in the face to her legacy," Pedro said.
Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, said it was hypocritical of Senate Republicans to rush a vote on Barrett, four years after preventing a vote on Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama's pick to fill the seat vacated by the late Antonin Scalia.
"Going forward with a rushed and politically-motivated nomination process during a pandemic threatens the legitimacy of the court and denies the American people the ability to provide meaningful input on the nominee," she said in a text message.
Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray said Barrett's selection potentially imperils the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"We've seen millions of Americans that now have insurance that didn't have insurance, preexisting conditions that are covered, and she is on record disagreeing with the Supreme Court's upholding of the Affordable Care Act," he said.
Voting on Barrett, in the final weeks of a presidential race, is unwise, Gray said.
"Leaders bring people together. We don't divide people. And I think leadership would dictate that this is something that should wait until we get through this election process," he said.
Republicans on Saturday rejected calls for a delay, arguing that the hearings and final confirmation vote should proceed.
"President Trump has once again nominated an exceptional legal scholar to serve on the nation's highest court and protect our Constitution," Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a written statement.
"Judge Barrett's resume, experience and deeply held faith make her the perfect selection for our country," Rutledge added.
Members of the state's all-Republican U.S. House of Representatives delegation offered Barrett their congratulations.
"I'm confident she will prove to be an effective justice committed to serving the American people and rule of law," U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers said in a written statement. "I hope my colleagues in the Senate will fulfill their constitutional duties by advancing full hearings and voting on the qualifications of President Trump's nominee."
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs called Barrett "an excellent pick."
"She's a brilliant legal scholar with impeccable credentials, and her originalist approach to the Constitution will hopefully reverse the Court's trend of legislating from the bench," he said in a written statement.
In an interview Friday, U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock called Barrett "a person of high character" and held in high regard.
"I believe she would be a fine justice," he said.
Saturday's announcement came on the same day as the Washington Prayer March, a gathering that drew tens of thousands of Christians to the nation's capital.
When Trump appeared with Barrett in the White House Rose Garden, many Christian conservatives were in the audience, including Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham, Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, former Family Research Council President Gary Bauer, televangelist Jentezen Franklin, and Prestonwood (Texas) Baptist Church pastor Jack Graham.
A Conway native and former Southern Baptist Convention president, Jack Graham called Barrett "eminently qualified."
"The president mentioned that she will be the first Supreme Court justice to be a mom with children at home," Graham said. "She's just so well-rounded, and we're just grateful for the president's selection. He did a great job."
Asked whether Trump's pick would appeal to evangelicals and Catholics, Graham said, "I believe it will appeal to all America. She's the kind of person that America needs."
Enthusiasm for Barrett was also high among Saturday's prayer marchers, including state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, and state Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville.
"We care for the Ginsburg family and know that she had a long life of service. But this judge, this justice, will have a completely different look on many of the issues that are important to Christians and conservatives in the country," Rapert said.
Given Barrett's convictions and her world view, "I pray that she would cast a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade," Rapert said.
Bentley said the nomination would strengthen Trump's support among Arkansas evangelicals.
"The man is doing what we want to do as far as our strong Christian values and our biblical worldview," she said. "This president is fulfilling what he said he would do, and that's something we don't see very often."