After Donald Trump’s sweep of the Republican primary contests on Tuesday night, the GOP nomination seems increasingly out of reach for his two remaining opponents, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. But it looks like Cruz, at least, may have other job offers already lined up.
A top Republican lawmaker said Tuesday that Cruz could be a Supreme Court pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia if the Texas senator fails to win the presidential nomination. These remarks came during an interview House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., gave on Fox Business Network Tuesday, when he was asked about the possibility of Trump and Cruz uniting on the GOP ticket.
“I think it's possible, whether it's Trump and Cruz or, you know, Cruz could be the Scalia replacement,” Scalise said.
When the hosts pressed him on the issue of Cruz being nominated to the high court, Scalise added that he believes Cruz would do a fine job on the bench.
“Oh, look, if he's not our nominee, I think he would be a great replacement for Scalia,” he said. “There's a role for him either way, whether he's the nominee. ... But at the end of the day I think he and Donald Trump have to come together for the good of the country.”
Senate Republicans have said they will not hold confirmation hearings during a presidential election year and will not consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Like other Republicans, Cruz has been firm on this point and has said repeatedly he believes the next president should fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
Before he was a U.S. senator, Cruz served as Texas solicitor general and clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court. He often discusses his love for the Constitution, but said during a CBS News interview in march that serving on the Supreme Court “is not a job I’m interested in.” At the time, he said he would rather appoint justices to the court.
But with his ability to do that looking less likely every day, there’s a chance Cruz could reconsider. He is scheduled to make a mysterious announcement Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. EDT, and many have speculated about how he and Kasich will proceed going forward.
While the possibility of Cruz being the Republican Supreme Court pick is a long way off, the idea is one that would likely scare many liberal Democrats, who disagree with the Texas senator on almost every major issue. Cruz is frequently considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate and was by far the most conservative 2016 contender, other than libertarian Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., according to FiveThirtyEight’s rankings.
Supreme Court justices cannot create laws and are supposed to stay out of partisan politics, but their own beliefs certainly factor into decisions, and whoever is chosen as the ninth justice will be in a position to help decide many important cases given the current tendency of the court to split 4-4 on ideological lines. When it comes to social issues, Cruz has said he is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest, has frequently lambasted Planned Parenthood and touts his focus on religious liberty. It wouldn’t be much of a leap to think that if he were on the Supreme Court, he would likely rule in favor of laws that place restrictions on abortion providers and against laws that require companies to provide insurance coverage for contraception, for example.
Cruz has also said that as president, he would repeal “every word” of Obamacare on day one in office. If he were on the Supreme Court bench, it seems like a safe bet that he would favor any challenge to Obama's healthcare law or similar programs.
Another issue on which he differs from Democrats is immigration. Despite his father coming to the U.S. as an immigrant, Cruz has taken a hardline stance and wants to block any effort that allows undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States. When the Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this year in U.S. vs. Texas, the case about Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the justices appeared divided. If they split 4-4 in that case, that would mean the lower appeals court ruling holds and the actions meant to help protect millions of immigrants from deportation cannot go into effect.
But a split court on that case would also mean that it could return to the Supreme Court at a later date once a ninth judge has been appointed. If that justice were someone conservative like Cruz, the court would likely rule that Obama did exceed his authority with the executive actions, thus striking them down.
On the topic of Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that has led to the rise of super PACs in election fundraising and that both Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders want to overturn, Cruz has defended the ruling and likened limiting contributions to an assault on free speech.
While any potential GOP Supreme Court nomination is still months away, the idea of Cruz in that high office is yet another scary scenario for Democrats who are already trying to rally voters around the cause of keeping Trump out of the White House. If Trump embraces the suggestion, it could serve as an even stronger impetus for Democrats to turn out in November.