Hawley said grassroots religious conservatives should be much more involved in Supreme Court discussions going forward given their political influence, and offered a reminder to his friends on “the conservative legal project.”
“Who goes out and votes for the judges?” Hawley said. “They are conservative Catholics, conservative Jews, evangelicals, Mormons. That coalition of people is of vital importance to the Republican Party. I think they are shocked by what is happening with the Supreme Court, so I think it is vital that they are heard and involved in this process. “
Trump first released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees in May 2016 with input from conservatives affiliated with The Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation. The names helped allay concerns about the Republican nominee, and many credit the movement by encouraging evangelicals to come to the polls.
Hawley, himself a former Supreme Court employee, has recently voiced his criticism to the higher court. But unlike other Republicans who share his frustrations and support Gorsuch, Hawley is the first to dispute the process used so far to choose Trump’s appointments. Hawley’s effort to address the issue also offers a window into a possible 2024 presidential campaign that is grounded in a populist and socially conservative message.
Senior officials from conservative legal groups respond that religious organizations have always been involved, saying that while they disagree with some of the Supreme Court decisions, conservatives are seeing a positive positive outcome under Trump. They also say Trump should be commended for his transparency by posting a list, arguing that it helped win his 2016 campaign.
“There is a narrower and more reserved judicial selection process that brought us David Souter and John Roberts,” said Leonard Leo, who was involved in the Supreme Court’s confirmation of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. “And there is the process that President Trump established and created that is to create as much transparency as possible by publishing a list so that all conservatives can see and respond.”
Leo, co-president of the Federalist Society, also rejected the idea that religious conservatives have been ignored.
“I seriously doubt that any thoughtful religious conservative would change today’s Supreme Court, despite some major disappointing decisions, for the Supreme Court of 25, 30 or 40 years ago,” he said. “Compared to conservative performance in the broader battle over our culture, the conservative legal movement has posted significantly more profits. Obviously, more can be achieved and that is precisely what the president is trying to achieve when he enters the electoral cycle this November. “
The President has had no qualms about promoting his record as judicial nominees. In a recent interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Trump said it was his greatest presidential achievement and predicted that nearly 300 judges would be confirmed under his administration. But there are some signs of discontent. During his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Trump touted Gorsuch’s confirmation, the crowd responded with jeers.
Carrie Severino, president of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, praised Trump’s decision to publicly publish a list, calling it a “bold” move. She also defended the nominee investigation process and predicted that Trump’s upcoming list of Supreme Court nominees would also include a new group of judges – the appellate court nominees confirmed under her presidency.
“That’s a really different kind of group than the one he had when Trump was choosing what to do. I was looking largely at those named by Bush, “said Severino. “Now I would have a chance to choose between Trump’s nominees … [who] they were chosen with a specific interest in having a certain level of courage and principles in a way that the Bush administration was not focusing. “
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who competed against Trump in 2016 and could seek the White House again one day, praised the president’s “leadership” over judicial candidates.
“The past two weeks of Court decisions demonstrate how important it is for President Trump to continue to emphasize the need to appoint strong bench judges who will uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and I look forward to seeing the revised list,” added Cruz .
However, others on the right say the Supreme Court has amassed too much power and that Congress and the administration must do more to counter disappointing legal decisions through legislation and executive authority.
“The future of the movement will have to be much more willing to address our political problems through the political process,” said Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project. “Congress needs to be much more committed. The president needs to be much more committed. “
Gabby Orr contributed to this report.