President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he is adding 20 names to a list of Supreme Court candidates that he’s pledged to choose from if he has future vacancies to fill.
The list include Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Christopher Landau, the current ambassador to Mexico, and Gregory Katsas, a Trump nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, among others.
“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 the White House.
Trump also warned his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, would select “radical justices” who would “fundamentally transform America.”
It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go.
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) September 9, 2020
The release, less than two months before the election, repeats the strategy that Trump employed during his 2016 campaign, when he released a similar list of could-be judges.
“The president is very excited to share who he would nominate to the Supreme Court,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said ahead of the announcement.
She said Trump “wants Constitution-abiding judges, he wants textualists who believe the words of a statute actually are what they are, not subject to interpretation.”
The Supreme Court is currently divided 5-4 between conservatives and liberals. While there is no current vacancy on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, has been undergoing cancer treatment, and three others members of the court are in their 70s and 80s.
Trump has already remade the federal bench for a generation. And any vacancy in the high court would give the president the ability to shape its future for decades to come if he is reelected in November.
Trump has said that the winner of the upcoming presidential election “could have anywhere from two to four, to maybe even five” Supreme Court justices to pick.
“You will change this country around. It will be irreversible,” he said last month in Minnesota.
Trump released two lists with a total of 21 names of potential Supreme Court nominees during his previous presidential campaign and added another five names in 2017 after becoming president. Trump’s two nominees to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, were both drawn from his lists.
Trump’s appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh remain among his crowning achievements and are frequently noted at his rallies.
For the president’s allies, the list is seen as a way to excite his base as well as remind voters of what’s at stake come November.
“I think it’s very important way for the president to reaffirm his commitment to an issue that many conservatives and Republicans see as a priority,” said Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society who participated in the Kavanaugh and Gorsuch confirmations.
“This a great way to remind people of the legacy he’s already established for himself in this area.”
Trump’s rival for the presidency, Joe Biden, has promised to nominate a black woman to the high court if given the chance. Biden, too, has said he’s working on a list of potential nominees, but the campaign has given no indication that it will release names before the November election.
“We are putting together a list of a group of African-American women who are qualified and have the experience to be in the court. I am not going to release that until we go further down the line of vetting them as well,” Biden said in June.
Trump has said that apart from “matters of war and peace, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American president can make” and that “candidates for president owe the American people a specific list of individuals they’d consider for the United States Supreme Court.”
Either man’s ability to get any future choice on the court depends on having a majority in the Senate, which confirms nominees. Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the chamber to Democrats’ 45, with two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
The court’s oldest members are Justice Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, both liberals, and Justice Clarence Thomas, 72, and Justice Samuel Alito, 70, two conservatives. Ginsburg made news this summer when she announced she is being treated for a recurrence of cancer but has no plans to step down.
Regardless of party, presidents tend to look for the same characteristics in potential Supreme Court picks.
All of the current justices attended Harvard or Yale law school, though Ginsburg left Harvard and graduated from Columbia. And they tend to be old enough to have a distinguished legal career but young enough to serve for decades. That generally means nominees are in their late 40s or 50s.
More recently, nominees have also previously clerked for a Supreme Court justice. Five of the current justices previously clerked at the Supreme Court.
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