At a packed town hall meeting Friday night in rural eastern Iowa, an audience member asked Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz a simple question: If elected, who would be his first nomination to the Supreme Court?
Cruz’s answer, however, was a bit more complicated. Instead of saying who he would choose (“Not Obama” was the closest he came), the Texas Senator said changing the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court would be a huge priority for him as president — and that he would “spend whatever political capital is necessary” to appoint the most reliably conservative justices he could find.
“I have spent my entire adult life fighting judicial activism, fighting to defend the Constitution, fighting to defend the Bill of Rights,” Cruz said. “Unlike the very fine individuals on that debate stage, I will be willing to spend whatever political capital is necessary, and sir I give you my word, every justice I put on that court will be a principled constitutionalist jurist with a proven record who will be faithful to the law and will not legislate from the bench.”
The concept of creating a more conservative Supreme Court is not new for Cruz. He regularly devotes part of his campaign speeches to the idea, repeating the same point: Republicans of the past have been too scared of political fights to appoint very right-wing justices. If he’s elected, he says, that will change.
“Many of the most liberal justices in this country — Earl Warren, Bill Brennan, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Harry Blackman, the author of Roe v. Wade — all of those were Republican appointees,” Cruz said. “And the reason is simple. Over and over again we keep electing Republican presidents for whom the court is not a priority. And when it comes to a nomination, they take the easy road out.”
Four of the current nine justices are over or near the age of 80 and and have served on the court for decades. It is likely, then, that the next president could have the opportunity to appoint multiple justices, and fundamentally change the ideological makeup of the highest court in the country.
Right now, the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court is more or less balanced — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer are widely considered liberal, while Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice John Roberts are considered conservative. Justice Anthony Kennedy is usually seen as an ideological toss-up.
On Friday night, Cruz issued a grave warning: If anyone but him is elected president, the Supreme Court will shift liberal — and the consequences would be include things like “unlimited abortion on demand.”
“We are one justice away from the Supreme Court concluding that nobody in this room and no American has an individual right to keep and bear arms,” Cruz said. “We are one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every restriction on abortion, and mandating unlimited abortion on demand, up until the time of birth, partial birth, with taxpayer funding, and no parental notification whatsoever. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court ordering veterans memorials torn down all over this country if they contain any acknowledgement of God Almighty.”
You can listen to Cruz’s whole answer on the Supreme Court here: