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Judgment calls

Politics | Vice President Mike Pence touts the importance of a conservative judiciary
by Harvest Prude
Posted 9/19/19, 05:20 pm

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate have put 152 judges in seats on the federal judiciary so far, something Vice President Mike Pence warns conservatives not to take for granted.

“They are all conservatives who are committed to upholding the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Pence said at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington on Tuesday. “[They are] strengthening the constitutional foundations of our courts.” The vice president was scheduled to talk about trade, but his speech turned quickly to the importance of the federal judiciary. He cautioned that Democrats would try to pack the courts with liberal judges if given the chance, even by adding justices to the Supreme Court.

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls—including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas—have suggested expanding the high court. Others have said they would select only pro-abortion judges.

“The Democrats and their allies in the media are obviously getting desperate,” Pence said. “After dominating our courts for more than a generation, leading Democrats today are now openly calling for packing the court. This week, they have even taken to smearing a sitting justice on the Supreme Court with discredited allegations.”

Pence was referring to an essay published Sunday in The New York Times with a new accusation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The article was largely discredited after the Times admitted the alleged victim declined to be interviewed and friends said she does not remember the incident.

Some Democrats, including many 2020 presidential contenders, have endorsed impeaching Kavanaugh in the last week. Pence called this a “disgrace and nothing short of an attack on our independent judiciary.”

That judiciary has proven essential to supporting the president’s policies on religious liberty and immigration. Trump-appointed judges helped decide that Christian symbols such as the World War I cross memorial in Bladensburg, Md., still have a place in the public square and that Trump’s third-country rule on asylum-seekers can take effect nationwide.

Several key abortion cases are also making their way through the federal court system, and some Supreme Court justices have indicated they are ready to consider a challenge to Roe v. Wade. In an opinion issued in late June, Justice Clarence Thomas noted, “Our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control,” and existing precedents for deciding abortion cases are an “aberration of constitutional law.”

Pence promised the administration would continue to appoint strict constitutionalist judges: “We are making historic progress strengthening the constitutional foundation of our courts through the appointments this president has made and will continue to make.”

Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Paying the bills

The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday afternoon to fund the government until Nov. 21, allowing Congress to avert a government shutdown while it debates spending for the upcoming fiscal year. The measure, which also extends healthcare programs due to expire at the end of the month, would maintain 2019 spending levels when the 2020 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said the short-term funding bill will give the Senate more time to pass its versions of annual spending proposals for federal agencies. The House and Senate must then agree on spending levels.

Senate Democrats this week blocked debate on 2020 appropriations for the Defense Department and other agencies over concerns about the use of Pentagon funds to pay for a border wall. —Anne K. Walters

Joining the club

The House on Thursday held its first hearing in 25 years on whether Washington, D.C., should become the nation’s 51st state. Local officials and residents have long advocated for statehood, claiming they deserve representation in Congress. But the city relies heavily on the federal government for funds and services, and granting the district statehood would pose a slew of logistical questions. Republicans worry the heavily Democratic enclave would also skew the makeup of Congress. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform will debate a statehood bill put forward by the district’s nonvoting congressional delegate, but the committee has not scheduled any votes on the issue. —A.K.W.

Radical powerbroker

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is throwing her liberal star power behind a Democratic primary challenger to pro-life Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois.

Marie Newman lost a primary challenge against Lipinski last year by about 2,000 votes. This time, she has the backing of Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee that worked to elect Ocasio-Cortez. Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont also have endorsed Newman.

Lipinski told National Review at this year’s March for Life he is concerned his party is driving away pro-life Democrats. —A.K.W.

Prime seating

The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cleared HUD Secretary Ben Carson of mismanaging funds while decorating his office. Carson ordered $31,000 worth of dining furniture for his suite in 2017, but he ultimately canceled the order after media reports brought it to light.

The department allocated $5,000 for Carson to redecorate his offices and said he left the details to his staff and his wife. HUD acknowledged it failed to notify Congress it was going to allocate other funds for the purchase. —A.K.W.

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Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

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