Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) urged President Donald Trump to revamp his process of selecting Supreme Court nominees after warning that some conservative voters have expressed deep disappointment with recent decisions by some of the president’s judicial picks.
Hawley told Politico in an interview that religious conservatives are now “very depressed” following the Supreme Court’s recent run of left-leaning rulings, with the GOP senator singling out a June 15 high court decision expanding the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination in hiring beyond biologically-determined sex, to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
The 6–3 decision by the Supreme Court in the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia case (pdf) carried an additional cultural charge because it was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump pick. Conservatives widely objected to the ruling, leading some to question their support for Trump, who has made the confirmation of 200 federal judges, including two Supreme Court justices, a big part of his reelection platform, in line with the Republican goal of filling every appeals court opening by the end of the year.
“The whole point of the Federalist Society judicial project, the whole point of electing Trump to implement it, was to deliver Supreme Court victories to social conservatives,” Varad Mehta, a conservative writer, wrote in a tweet following the ruling. “If they can’t deliver anything that basic, there’s no point for either. The damage is incalculable.”
Following the outcry from the ruling, Trump pledged to appoint more conservative justices and said he would be issuing a new list of potential Supreme Court nominees by September, in a bid to win over socially-conservative voters.
“I will be releasing a new list of Conservative Supreme Court Justice nominees, which may include some, or many of those already on the list, by September 1, 2020. If given the opportunity, I will only choose from this list, as in the past, a Conservative Supreme Court Justice,” Trump wrote in a tweet. Trump first released a list of possible Supreme Court nominees in 2016 with input from conservatives affiliated with The Federalist Society, with experts widely crediting the move as winning over many evangelical voters.
Hawley said Trump should reconsider his process for compiling the new list, calling for religious conservatives to be more involved in discussions around judicial picks.
“Who actually goes out and votes for judges?” Hawley told Politico. “It’s conservative Catholics, conservative Jews, evangelicals, Mormons. That coalition of folks is vitally important to the Republican Party. I think they feel just shocked at what’s going on with the Supreme Court, so I think it’s vital that they be heard from and involved in this process.”
“The idea of issuing a new list, if it’s just going to be the same stuff and the same process, I mean I’m not wild about it,” Hawley said. “When it comes to this whole process, we have to ask ourselves, is this vetting process, is this really working?”
Hawley’s remarks echo those he made following the Supreme Court decision in the Bostock sex discrimination case, where he urged America’s religious conservatives to demand a new “bargain” from Republican leaders as a condition for their future support.
“If this case makes anything clear, it is that the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one, it’s time to reject it,” Hawley said on the Senate floor on June 16.
“The bargain has never been explicitly articulated, but religious conservatives know what it is,” Hawley said. “The bargain is you go along with the party establishment, you support their policies and priorities, or just keep your mouth shut about it, and in return, the establishment will put some judges on the bench who supposedly will protect your constitutional rights to freedom of worship, to freedom of exercise.”
“That’s what we’ve been told for years now, and we were told that we’re supposed to shut up while the party establishment focuses more on cutting taxes and handing out favors for corporations, multinational corporations who don’t share our values, who will not stand up for American principles, who are only too happy to ship American jobs overseas,” Hawley said.
“But we’re supposed to say nothing about that, we’re supposed to keep our mouths shut, because maybe we’ll get a judge out of the deal,” he added.