The conservative and pro-life movement has a historic opportunity to reshape the court for generations by filling the current vacancy with a justice who will rule based on the “written text of the Constitution” and not their personal views, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said Tuesday.
Speaking to a virtual Values Voter Summit, Hawley (R-Mo.) said Republican presidents in the past often have not lived up to their promises to nominate conservative justices. President Trump, he added, is the “first president of my lifetime who has said, straight up, ‘I'm gonna nominate pro-life judges.’”
The vacancy was created when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who supported Roe v. Wade, died Friday.
“This is a turning-point moment,” Hawley said. “.... We've got an opportunity here as conservatives – those of us who believe in the right to life, those of us who believe in religious liberty. This is a moment where we'll be able to shape the future of this court for decades to come.”
The current Supreme Court, Hawley said, “has made it all too clear that we do not have a working pro-Constitution majority.”
“We do not have a working pro-family, pro-life majority on the United States Supreme Court,” Hawley said. “This is the chance to get one.”
Hawley and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins referenced past GOP Supreme Court nominees who have not ruled the way conservative voters had hoped. Hawley and Perkins didn’t name specific presidents or justices, but two Reagan nominees (Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor) and one George H.W. Bush nominee (David Souter) voted to uphold Roe. Three of President Nixon’s nominees (Warren E. Burger, Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell) voted with the majority in Roe.
“Republican presidents have gotten to appoint over a dozen justices in the last few decades,” Hawley said “We have not – the Republican Party has not – done a good job of actually living up to its pledges, to our voters, to put pro-Constitution, pro-life, pro-family justices on the bench. It's time that the pledge ends and the actual work, and the results, begin.”
Too often, Perkins said, Republican administrations have put forward nominees and told supporters, “We really don't want to know where they stand on the issue [and] we want a nondescript candidate nominee that we can get through.”
“The Left doesn't do this,” Hawley said. “The Left is very good about saying what they want in a justice, about putting down their parameters.
“It's not too much to ask that a justice actually observe the written text of the Constitution. It's not too much to ask that a justice understand the difference between his or her own personal views and the votes of the people, the text written by the people in the Constitution of the United States and the laws,” Hawley said.
It is not known how many current justices would vote to overturn Roe, although five of the nine current members have voted in the past to uphold pro-life laws. (Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the minority to uphold a Texas pro-life law in 2016 but sided with the liberal bloc this year when an identical issue came before the court.)
The senator said he wants to “see some actual public evidence” that the nominee is pro-life.
“If you think that Roe was OK, if you think there's no problem with Roe, not only are you wrong on the moral issue, but that also tells me you don't understand a judge's role in our constitutional structure,” Hawley said.
The Senate, Hawley said, should vote on the nominee prior to the election. Ginsburg was nominated and confirmed quickly, Hawley said. (There were 50 days between her nomination and confirmation.)
"I think we ought to have a vote, not just at the judiciary committee but on the floor of the Senate, before the election,” Hawley said. “... We have a constitutional responsibility to fulfill here.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Samuel Corum/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.