On Monday's The 11th Hour show on MSNBC, during a discussion of President Donald Trump nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court, host Brian Williams only made room for commentary from the left as he allowed former Barack Obama administration official Neal Katyal to give his reaction against her.
Cuing up his liberal guest's commentary, Williams suggested that the possibility of the Supreme Court striking down ObamaCare would be "unforgivably cruel" as the former NBC Nightly News host posed:
Counselor, dual-part question: Set the stakes on this November 10 argument and a backup question. It would, to a lot of people, seem unforgivably cruel if a court ruling in the middle of a pandemic took away health care to millions of Americans. Would they ever set a remedy if that indeed is their judgment?
Katyal argued that people with preexisting conditions would be hurt by a Supreme Court ruling against ObamaCare, but the opposite argument was ignored that many Americans are hurt by the current law because their insurance premiums have increased. At one point, Katyal claimed that the Trump administration Justice Department had "betrayed" its responsibilities:
The normal job of the Justice Department is to defend a federal law -- to go into the Supreme Court and say, "This is an act of Congress -- defend it." What they've done is actually betrayed that duty and gone in and say the reverse. And now, the cherry on top, President Trump is trying to rush his new Supreme Court nominee through so that she can sit and hear the case on November 10, and Republicans are signaling, "Yes, she's written this essay that is incredibly hostile to the Affordable Care Act."
Williams did not give any pushback on his liberal guest's arguments, but followed up by asking if Judge Barrett was qualified for the job on the merits. After briefly acknowledging that she has some positive qualities, Katyal quickly pivoted to asserting that his complaints against her are more important, and that the President will "tarnish" both her and the Supreme Court by appointing her before January.
This episode of The 11th Hour with Brian Williams was sponsored by Loan Depot. Their contact information is linked.
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Monday, September 28, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams on MSNBC:
The 11th Hour
11:25 p.m. Eastern
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett will begin meeting Senators on Capitol Hill tomorrow, wasting no time. The judge is scheduled to start with the two Republicans she needs most to be seated on that Court, and that's McConnell and Graham. Meanwhile, the future of ObamaCare -- the Affordable Care Act -- is receiving renewed attention after Judge Barrett's nomination. On November 10 -- one week after the election -- the full court is scheduled to hear arguments in a case that seeks to overturn the law. The Washington Post has new reporting on an essay that Judge Barrett wrote back in 2017, criticizing the 2012 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act, and we quote:
"Barrett argues that judges should respect the text of laws and contends that Chief Justice Roberts -- who wrote the majority opinion the first time the Supreme Court upheld the health care law, 'pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.'"
Well, back with us tonight, Neal Katyal -- a veteran of the Justice Department, solicitor general during the Obama administration. He has argued 39 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Counselor, dual-part question: Set the stakes on this November 10 argument and a backup question. It would, to a lot of people, seem unforgivably cruel if a court ruling in the middle of a pandemic took away health care to millions of Americans. Would they ever set a remedy if that indeed is their judgment?
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: The Trump administration has gone into the U.S. Supreme Court, Brian, to say no remedy, take away the Affordable Care Act as a whole -- the entire thing -- and, in particular, its preexisting conditions insurance coverage. That's a big deal -- 82 million Americans are impacted by the Affordable Care Act because, under that act, an insurance company can't charge any of those 82 million Americans more for their insurance or refuse to cover them at all. Also under the act, the insurance companies can't charge women more than men. The Trump administration is voluntarily going in and saying, "Nope, you got to strike the whole thing down because of a perceived technical flaw that they claim is in the act."
You know, the normal job of the Trump Justice -- the normal job of the Justice Department is to defend a federal law -- to go into the Supreme Court and say, "This is an act of Congress -- defend it." What they've done is actually betrayed that duty and gone in and say the reverse. And now, the cherry on top, President Trump is trying to rush his new Supreme Court nominee through so that she can sit and hear the case on November 10, and Republicans are signaling, "Yes, she's written this essay that is incredibly hostile to the Affordable Care Act."
And so, President Trump, I think, hoped, by this nomination, to try and derent -- derail attention to the kind of focus on his, you know, terrible COVID response and focus on the Supreme Court, but, in so doing, he's actually just put it back there, and the attention's all on the Supreme Court and these crazy Trump positions to try and take insurance coverage away from millions of Americans.
WILLIAMS: While I note there is the distinct possibility that you will someday say, "Mr. Chief Justice" and "May it please the court," facing a bench that includes, potentially, Justice Barrett, I ask the following: If we take out the politics of the present debate, is she qualified on paper -- academically, for starters -- to be a justice of the Supreme Court?
KATYAL: The issue is this particular seat and the way in which they are rushing to fill it. This isn't like the last Supreme Court opening. So when Justice Scalia died and President Trump replaced him with Neil Gorsuch, that really wasn't a change in the ideology of the Supreme Court at all -- one strong conservative for another. When Anthony Kennedy retired and was replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, again, not a real change in ideology -- maybe a bit of a change to the right, but not something -- here you've got, you know, one of the most celebrated liberal lions on the Supreme Court to have ever served -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's not even been 10 days -- it's been about 10 days since she's passed away -- and Trump is trying to jam a nominee through in, you know, the handful of days before an election.
Maybe there's a case to be made, if the President had an electoral mandate to try and change the composition of the Court in such a fundamental way, but that's a case to be made in January if he can really, truly win the election and hold the Senate. But I think even he acknowledges he's afraid he can't do any of that, and that's why he's taking this unprecedented, really risky step which tarnishes the Court immensely and tarnishes Judge Barrett.