U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced more names of candidates he would nominate to the Supreme Court, despite no current vacancy at the court.
In addition to the existing White House list of two dozen potential Supreme Court nominees, Trump added 20 more names Sept. 9, including three sitting U.S. senators.
Among the names on the new list are Stewart Kyle Duncan of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—the former general counsel for the religious freedom firm Becket—and Peter Phipps of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whose membership in the Knights of Columbus was the subject of tough questions by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) when he was a district court nominee in 2018.
Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit court, a former professor at the University of Notre Dame and a Catholic mother of seven, was on the existing White House list of nominees.
Pro-life leaders hailed Wednesday’s announcement by Trump. Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said the appointment of pro-life judges to federal courts was “one of President Trump’s greatest accomplishments” of his first term, and that “[w]e anticipate that process will continue in a second term.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and co-chair of the Trump campaign’s pro-life outreach said that his list “is filled with all-stars.”
Wednesday’s announcement comes eight weeks before the general election, and it is not the first time Trump has advertised potential Supreme Court nominees during an election year.
After he was declared the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in May 2016, Trump released an initial list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees. Justice Antonin Scalia had died in January, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to confirm President Obama’s nominee for the Court, Merrick Garland, saying that the Senate would wait until after the presidential election to fill Scalia’s seat.
Trump added to that list in September 2016, and again in 2017, expanding the list to two dozen names before his announcement on Wednesday.
At a presidential debate in October 2016, Trump pledged to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2017, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to be Scalia’s replacement, and in 2018 he nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was retiring. Neither were on Trump’s May 2016 list, although Gorsuch was named as a potential nominee in September 2016.
However, in the first major abortion case before the court during Trump’s presidency, the court struck down Louisiana’s safety regulations of abortion clinics, a blow to pro-life efforts at the state level. While Gorsuch and Kavanaugh ruled in the minority on the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Court’s four liberal justices against the law.
Trump’s Wednesday announcement placedd three Republican senators on his new list, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). They join Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) who was on the existing White House nominee list.
Hawley, however, tweeted on Wednesday that he had “no interest in the high court.” He recently said he would implement a “litmus test” for Supreme Court nominees on whether or not they believe the Roe decision was wrongly decided; he criticized the Roe decision as an “act of judicial imperialism” in an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in August.
Cotton tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go.” Cruz meanwhile, tweeted that he was “humbling and an immense honor” to be on the list.
Trump warned that judges nominated under a Biden administration would “erase” gun rights, allow for public funding of late-term abortions, “erase national borders,” “cripple police departments,” and declare the death penalty unconstitutional. He did not explain how potential judicial nominees might do so.
Barrett, who was twice honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame and previously clerked for Scalia, has been rumored to be one of the top potential nominees if there is an opening at the Supreme Court.
At her confirmation hearing for the appeals court in 2017, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the role her faith would play in presiding over cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that “so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things,” and told Barrett that her speeches revealed that “the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”
Barrett was also questioned about her membership in “People of Praise,” an ecumenical charismatic community.