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.”