DeSantis, Trump spar over who is conservative enough for a right-veering Supreme Court

Second Amendment


WASHINGTON − Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump swiped at each other Monday in a debate that might surprise many Americans: Whether the Supreme Court is conservative enough.

DeSantis, speaking on a talk show Monday, suggested Trump’s three nominees to the nation’s highest court − Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett − weren’t quite conservative enough for GOP voters and vowed to “do better” if elected. DeSantis and Trump are vying for the GOP presidential nomination.

“I respect the three appointees he did, but none of those three are at the same level of Justices (Clarence) Thomas and Justice (Sam) Alito,” DeSantis said on Hugh Hewitt’s program. “I think they are the gold standard, and so my justices will be along the lines of a Sam Alito and a Clarence Thomas.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis, on April 14, 2023.

Trump points to Roe, DeSantis’ earlier support for nominees

Trump’s campaign fired back by noting that the former president’s nominees are the reason conservatives on the Supreme Court had the votes last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The ruling was the culmination of a decades-long push to overturn Roe.

The high court last year also expanded Second Amendment protections and sided with religious entities in several high-profile cases.

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Trump’s campaign also pointed to a 2018 gubernatorial debate in which DeSantis claimed Trump had “done a better job appointing judges to both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Appeals Court than any other president in my lifetime.”

The back-and-forth underscores how the Supreme Court is once again emerging as a key issue in the presidential election, even though there’s a chance the next president wouldn’t be able to name any new justices to the bench. Seven of the nine justices are in their 50s or 60s, suggesting they have many years left to serve. Justice Stephen Breyer, the most recent member of the court to retire, stepped down at 83.

Hundreds gathered to hear Governor Ron DeSantis speak at the North Carolina Republican Party 2023 State Convention on Friday, June 9. The event came on the heels of another indictment of former President Donald Trump.Mandatory Credit: Megan Smith-USA TODAY ORG XMIT: USAT-713029 (Via OlyDrop)

Hundreds gathered to hear Governor Ron DeSantis speak at the North Carolina Republican Party 2023 State Convention on Friday, June 9. The event came on the heels of another indictment of former President Donald Trump.Mandatory Credit: Megan Smith-USA TODAY ORG XMIT: USAT-713029 (Via OlyDrop)

Who is conservative enough for next GOP president?

It’s not the first time DeSantis has brought up the Supreme Court as he attempts to draw a contrast with Trump on what many conservatives see as his most significant achievement: judicial nominations. Last month, DeSantis claimed the next GOP president could forge a 7-2 conservative majority via departures of three or four justices.

Republican nominees currently hold a 6-3 advantage and the high court is more conservative today than it has been in decades. Thomas, who wrote last year’s Second Amendment decision, and Alito, who wrote the majority opinion overturning Roe, are the court’s most conservative members.

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But Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett all also regularly vote with Thomas and Alito in the highest profile cases. Barrett voted with Thomas 87% of the time last term, according to data compiled by SCOTUSblog. For Gorsuch, it was 78%.

DeSantis didn’t name which cases, specifically, he took issue with. Some conservatives balked at a significant 2020 decision barring workplace discrimination against LGBTQ employees that Gorsuch wrote. Others noted Kavanaugh has written concurrences that could limit the impact of conservative outcomes, including in last year’s abortion and guns cases.

The Supreme Court on June 5, 2023.

The Supreme Court on June 5, 2023.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DeSantis, Trump clash over who is conservative enough for Supreme Court



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