Social conservatives are done being taken for granted by the GOP: That’s the message Sen. Josh Hawley shot across the party and administration’s bow Sunday, setting a brave and admirable standard for Christian legislators that is sure to pit him against powerful Washington Republicans and Democrats.
“I will vote only for those Supreme Court nominees who have explicitly acknowledged that Roe v. Wade is wrongly decided.” Hawley told The Washington Post. “By explicitly acknowledged, I mean on the record and before they were nominated.”
“I don’t want private assurances from candidates. I don’t want to hear about their personal views, one way or another. I’m not looking for forecasts about how they may vote in the future or predictions. I don’t want any of that. I want to see on the record, as part of their record, that they have acknowledged in some forum that Roe v. Wade, as a legal matter, is wrongly decided.”
The junior senator from Missouri is a member of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, through which any of President Donald Trump’s potential future nominees to the Supreme Court must pass before being brought to the floor for a vote. Conservative judges have been a major point for this administration, beginning during the campaign when, working closely with The Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation, Trump released a list of who he would nominate, exciting then-skeptical conservatives.
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Since then, conservatives have been routinely disappointed by Republican-nominated justices, quietly complaining about the GOP and the powerful, conservative Federalist Society’s tendency to focus on justices who have established records of conservative and libertarian business and government rulings, but no firmly established record of rulings that protect either marriage or the lives of the unborn.
Wary of Democrat opposition and the screaming protests that often come with it, Republican nominees have practiced the habit of privately visiting with the senators whose votes they need for confirmation, promising they are personally opposed to abortion, et cetera.
This will no longer fly with him, Hawley told the Post Sunday: “Roe is central to judicial philosophy. Roe is and was an unbridled act of judicial imperialism. It marks the point the modern Supreme Court said, ‘You know, we don’t have to follow the Constitution. We won’t even pretend to try.’”
The decision puts him at odds with Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, both socially liberal Republicans who have pledged not to vote for a nominee openly opposed to Roe v. Wade. West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito has also voiced pro-abortion views. Democrats, particularly Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, are known to push Republican nominees to say they oppose Roe v. Wade during confirmation hearings, operating under the tragically correct assumption that such a statement will galvanize liberal opposition and frighten Republican supporters.
Hawley’s stance also sets the 40-year-old rising star up for battle with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made confirmations a priority and, like many other prominent Republicans, pays lip-service to social conservatives while avoiding putting his more vulnerable members in the difficult position of having to deliver on socially conservative issues.
To McConnell’s credit, he shocked conservative Republicans at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, blocking Obama nominee Merrick Garland from the bench, saying it was too close to an election for such a far-reaching decision. This frightened Washington Republicans, who feared a President Hillary Clinton would successfully nominate an even more liberal justice than Obama had. Under McConnell’s near-singular focus, the Senate has confirmed 200 Trump nominees to courts across the country.
The Supreme Court, however, outraged Christians and conservatives in late June when Chief Justice John Roberts, a President George W. Bush appointee, sided with the pro-abortion side of the court, striking down a Louisiana law that mandated abortion clinics in the state be able to admit women to a hospital within 30 miles. The state has three clinics, The Washington Free Beacon reports, which perform 10,000 abortions a year. The law could have closed two of the clinics.
“After today’s disappointing decision by [Supreme Court],” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that afternoon, “one thing is clear: We need more Conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“It’s maybe not the majority we thought it was,” President Trump told The Federalist’s Ben Domenech in an Oval Office interview just two days prior, and five days after Justice Neil Gorsuch joined Roberts and the left to use the court to extend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to groups it did not cover in legislation. Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee to the court, was hotly anticipated by conservatives. “We’re just one justice away from losing the court, and the next four years, you get two, maybe three, maybe even four. You just need one, and then we lose the court and the country as we know it.”
“This standard, for me, applies to Supreme Court nominees, whether they’re a sitting judge or whatever,” Hawley said. “If there is no indication in their record that at any time they have acknowledged that Roe was wrong at the time it was decided, then I’m not going to vote for them — and I don’t care who nominates them.”
During the court’s 2018-2019 session, over 10 separate rulings, every one of the five Republican justices joined their liberal colleagues to deliver the left a five-four majority. “By contrast,” court reporter Kevin Daley wrote at the close of the session, “the conservative justices joined together to form a five-member majority in seven cases.”
“This is not an attempt to push forward a particular person,” Hawley said. “This is about where I’m going to be on Supreme Court nominees.”
Hawley, an economic populist and social conservative, is a favorite of the rising movement in the GOP, harking back to an older understanding of American conservatism best embodied in modern politics by Pat Buchanan and, now, Tucker Carlson.