Bench Memos

What GOP Contenders Want for the Supreme Court

Since the future of the Supreme Court will be in the hands of the next president, the Republican presidential hopefuls (in all stages of declared, exploratory, and expected candidacies) weighed in on the Supreme Court’s rulings in King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges this week.  They were all over the place.

Jeb Bush:

“I’m disappointed in both decisions and it’s important to think about going forward what kind of judges we need, particularly in the highest court in the land. I’ve given it some thought because I was governor of Florida. And when I was governor, we tried to find people with a proven record of judicial restraint and people that were committed to enforcing the constitutional limits on government authority. In essence, what I’m saying is that I think we need to have people that have – not just theoretically – but have a proven record of not legislating from the bench.”

Marco Rubio:

“As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood. The next president and all in public office must strive to protect the First Amendment rights of religious institutions and millions of Americans whose faiths hold a traditional view of marriage.”

Scott Walker:

“​The states are the proper place for these decisions to be made, and as we have seen repeatedly over the last few days, we will need a conservative president who will appoint men and women to the Court who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our land without injecting their own political agendas.”​

Ted Cruz:

“Today’s decision in King v. Burwell is judicial activism, plain and simple. For the second time in just a few years, a handful of unelected judges has rewritten the text of Obamacare in order to impose this failed law on millions of Americans. . . . For nakedly political reasons, the Supreme Court willfully ignored the words that Congress wrote, and instead read into the law their preferred policy outcome. These judges have joined with President Obama in harming millions of Americans. Unelected judges have once again become legislators, and bad ones at that. They are lawless, and they hide their prevarication in legalese. . . .”

Rick Perry:

“Our founding fathers did not intend for the judicial branch to legislate from the bench, and as president, I would appoint strict Constitutional conservatives who will apply the law as written.”

Bobby Jindal:

“Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, the debate will grow. Conservatives must be fearless in demanding that our leaders in Washington repeal and replace Obamacare with a plan that will lower health care costs and restore freedom.”

Rand Paul:

“This decision [King v. Burwell] turns both the rule of law and common sense on its head.”

Ben Carson:

“While I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, their ruling is now the law of the land. . . .”  

Lindsey Graham:

“. . . [E]ach state should have the right to determine their marriage laws. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, and I will respect the Court’s decision. . . . As president, I would staunchly defend religious liberty in this nation and would devote the necessary federal resources to the protection of all Americans from any effort to hinder the free and full exercise of their rights.”

Carly Fiorina:

“This is only the latest example of an activist Court ignoring its constitutional duty to say what the law is and not what the law should be. . . . Moving forward, however, all of our effort should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience for those Americans that profoundly disagree with today’​s decision.”

Rick Santorum:

“​​Now is the people’​s opportunity to respond . . . The Court is one of three co-equal branches of government and, just as they have in cases from Dred Scott to Plessy, the Court has an imperfect track record.”​

Mike Huckabee:

“I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.” 

George Pataki:

“While I’m disappointed the Supreme Court has again stretched to find a way to save Obamacare, the decision simply makes plain the need to repeal it and it’​s broken promises and replace it with a patient-centric, market-based system like we did when I was Governor of New York.”

Donald Trump:

“Once again the Bush appointed  Supreme Court Justice John Roberts has let us down. Jeb pushed him hard! Remember!”

“If I win the presidency, my judicial appointments will do the right thing unlike Bush’​s appointee John Roberts on ObamaCare.”

Chris Christie:

“This decision [King v. Burwell] turns common language on its head. Now leaders must turn our attention to making the case that ObamaCare must be replaced.”

“​I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Those changes should be done by a vote of the people.”​

John Kasich:

“​Ive always felt that marriage is, you know, one of these traditions between a man and a woman, but the Court has spoken. And I’​ve said all along that when the Court makes a decision, we abide by the law of the land. And they made their determination and—just move on. It doesnt mean I’​m not disappointed, I am, but the decision has been made.”​

Jonathan KeimJonathan Keim is Counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Princeton University, an experienced litigator, and ...


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