Next Vacancy, Hawley Will Roe His Vote

July 28, 2020

If there's any comfort to be had from 2020's miserable string of Supreme Court rulings, it's that conservatives aren't going to take the next vacancy lying down. After years of taking judges at their word, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) says it's time to play hardball. If the next person sitting before the Judiciary Committee says they're pro-life, they'd better have a record that proves it.

"I don't want private assurances from candidates," Hawley insisted. "I don't want to hear about their personal views, one way or another. I'm not looking for forecasts about how they may vote in the future or predications. I don't want any of that. I want to see on the record, as part of their record, that they have acknowledged in some forum that Roe v. Wade, as a legal matter, is wrongly decided."

Like a lot of Americans, Hawley's had it. Watching the Supreme Court try to justify a horrible ruling on abortion regulations last month only strengthened his resolve. "It's time," he told listeners on "Washington Watch" "that we ask the question that's fundamental to a judge's judicial philosophy. And Roe was an unbridled act of judicial imperialism. It's also a moral outrage -- one of the worst decisions ever handed down by the United States Supreme Court... It belongs with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson as decisions that have wounded the soul of this nation... And I want to know from any individual judge or whatever nominated to the United States Supreme Court whether they are able to recognize the illegitimate nature of Roe vs. Wade as a constitutional matter." If it's not there, he warns, if there's not evidence, "I will not vote."

Hawley's line in the sand comes after a particularly painful term at the court, where the Constitution took one of its worst beatings in recent memory -- most of them at the hands of Chief Justice John Roberts, who conservatives were assured in 2005 was a solid pick. For years, groups like FRC have been told by Republicans to shut up and support their nominees, even if they didn't have a reassuring paper trail. That ends now. The sanctity of human life is a fundamental issue, and if a nominee can't get that right, it's very unlikely they'll get anything else right either.

If we trace it back, Senator Hawley said, Roe "is the point at which the modern court, back in 1973 said, 'We're not even going to attempt to follow the Constitution.' ... Which is why a judge's position on Roe, the understanding of that case as a legal matter sheds great light. It is a window into their constitutional worldview. And the simple fact of the matter is, if you can't recognize that ruling was wrong constitutionally, then you are a judicial imperialist, and that's going to have consequences across a range of cases. It's a basic matter of constitutional fidelity."

At the end of the day, Senator Hawley pointed out, "it's not my job to choose the judges or the justices to be nominated. I only have one role in this process -- and that is to vote to confirm or not. And I'm just saying that I will not vote to confirm if a judge nominated for the Supreme Court has not acknowledged Roe was wrongly decided."