Trump adds Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton to Supreme Court shortlist

U.S. President Donald Trump faces reporters prior to boarding Air Force One as he departs Washington for campaign travel to Florida and North Carolina at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., September 8, 2020.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Wednesday added 20 names to his list of potential nominees to the Supreme Court and called on his Democratic rival Joe Biden to do the same, renewing a tactic he first employed during his last presidential campaign. 

Among the nearly two dozen additions to the list are GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, as well as Noel Francisco, the former Trump administration solicitor general, and a number of judges whom Trump had previously appointed to the federal bench.  

“Every one of these individuals will ensure equal justice, equal treatment, and equal rights for citizens of every race, color, religion and creed,” Trump said at a press conference announcing the names. “Together we will defend our righteous heritage and preserve our magnificent American way of life.”

Trump first took the unprecedented step of releasing two lists of potential Supreme Court picks during his 2016 campaign, a move designed to shore up support among Christian conservatives. The release of the new list once again seemed geared toward energizing the GOP’s religious base.

Shortly after the announcement, Cotton wrote in a post on Twitter that “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go,” referring to the landmark abortion ruling.

Hawley said on the social media platform that he had no interest in being on the court, but did “look forward to confirming constitutional conservatives.” Cruz said in a statement that his placement on the list was humbling. 

The timing of Wednesday’s release, which Trump said months ago would be out by September, suggested it was intended to bolster the president’s electoral odds. 

The president has been trailing behind Biden in national surveys, as polling data shows voters are focused on his administration’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.

He released the names on a day he has come under fire for admitting that he downplayed coronavirus dangers in the early days of the pandemic, according to an interview he gave to author Bob Woodward for a new book.

Trump defended himself, saying at the news conference that his role is as a “cheerleader for this country” and that he did not want to foment panic about the virus. 

Notably, neither of the president’s eventual nominees to the top court were included on his first shortlist, released in May 2016, though they were added to subsequent drafts. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee to the high court, was included on the second list, which was released in September of 2016. Gorsuch was confirmed to the court, which had a vacancy when Trump was inaugurated as a result of the death of Antonin Scalia.

After taking office, Trump added five more names to his list, including Brett Kavanaugh. Trump tapped Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy.

Trump has touted the rapid appointment of young, conservative judges to the federal bench as one of the signature successes of his first term. 

There are no vacancies on the top court, though Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, both liberals, are in their 80s. The court has a 5-4 majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents. 

Biden has not released a list of potential nominees, though he has pledged to nominate a Black woman to the bench. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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