After releasing a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees Wednesday, Donald Trump said that he may add more names to his list.
He hadn’t mentioned such a plan before releasing the 11 names. Apparently, though Trump says they were “very well received,” they just weren’t enough for the ultraconservatives he’s trying to reassure.
Donald Trump started his hunt for the perfect justice with an invitation to the Heritage Foundation in March. Give me a list, he said, and that’s who I’ll consider. Five of Trump’s first 11 names are from the Heritage Foundation’s list, which is made up ofmostly traditional conservative choices — meaning they hold radical views on abortion, corporate speech, environmental protections, and the place of religion in public life.
The Heritage Foundation itself, conveniently, publicly released that list of “highly qualified, principled individuals” that “the new president should consider” just a week after Donald Trump asked them for it. Perhaps Trump will include the list’s remaining judges left behind when he again breaks with precedent and preemptively releases possible names before being elected to anything.
He could include Brett Kavanaugh, a Bush-appointed justice serving alongside Merrick Garland on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Kavanaugh was recommended by the Heritage Foundation as a suitable replacement for Antonin Scalia, and he has a solid record of towing the Republican Party’s line, even to the point of offering “advice to the Republicans who are challenging Obama,” according to a 2012 piece in The New Yorker.
He was the sole justice in the three-justice circuit court to dissent from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act that year, saying that the lawsuit was premature. Instead, he wrote in his dissent, “Under the Constitution, the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.” That president would presumably be a Republican.
There’s also Paul Clement, the 43rd U.S. solicitor general, a Bush appointee, who is now in private practice. He also fought against the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the government forcing people to buy health insurance was just the start.
“He has become, in the Obama age, a sort of anti–solicitor general—the go-to lawyer for some of the Republican Party’s most significant, and polarizing, legal causes,” said a New York Magazine profile in 2012. “In January, he argued before the Court, on behalf of Rick Perry, against a Texas congressional-redistricting plan that had been crafted by a federal-district court to protect minority voters. Next month, he’ll defend Arizona’s restrictive immigration law.”
Clement also defended the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of congressional Republicans and fought against the Obama administration’s attempts to block South Carolina’s voter ID laws.
The last remaining candidate on the Heritage Foundation’s list of Supreme Court nominees was Utah Representative and Tea Party darling Mike Lee, now known for using a procedural hold to block a vote on federal assistance to Flint, Michigan in the aftermath of revelations that the city’s water supply was tainted with lead, claiming that the city, neglected for years by the state government, did not need federal aid.
“The people and policymakers of Michigan right now have all the government resources they need to fix the problem,” said Lee. “The only thing Congress is contributing to the Flint recovery is political grandstanding.”
According to a govtrack.us ideology score, Lee is among one of the most conservative members of the Senate based on the bills he has sponsored, sitting to the right of all but three Republican senators. He was also the first senator to endorse Ted Cruz, the man so hated in Congress that John Boehner claimed he was “Lucifer in the flesh.”
Are there more conservatives out there Trump will look to add to his list? Probably. But given his promise to outsource the job of Supreme Court nominations to a right wing think tank, watching what the Heritage Foundation says is likely a good predictor.