GOP Sen. Ted Cruz has spent the better part of the last month raising his glass to a vanquished foe.
The senator says conservatives and the Trump administration owe “an ironic debt of gratitude” to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose decision to abolish the filibuster on judicial nominees has provided an unparalleled opportunity to recast the direction of the federal courts, dominated by Democratic appointees.
“We owe an ironic debt of gratitude to Harry Reid,” Sen. Cruz told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And indeed, more than once in the last month I have raised a glass to toast Harry Reid.”
Reid altered the rules for confirming judicial nominees in 2013 when he was majority leader, eliminating the filibuster for all judicial nominations (the so-called “nuclear option”), except for the U.S. Supreme Court. Reid made the decision in connection with protracted Republican resistance to the nominations of Nina Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. All three were eventually confirmed.
Cruz and other Senate Republicans warned Democrats to consider the long-term consequences of the procedural maneuver.
“At the time, I told many of my Democratic colleagues, ‘This will result in more Scalias and Thomases on the Supreme Court and on the federal courts, and it will result in much more conservative cabinet nominees.'”
“That’s precisely what occurred,” he added.
As a consequence of the Reid maneuver, Cruz anticipates President Trump and congressional Republicans will cultivate a new generation of young conservative jurists for lengthy service on the federal bench.
“The consequences of it are we have a much more conservative cabinet and I believe we’re going to be able to move expeditiously to confirm strong conservatives,” he told TheDCNF. “There’s over 100 vacancies [on the federal bench.] I would like to see an army of young principled constitutionalists on the bench, a generation of new leadership, a generation of 30-something and 40-something Scalias and Thomases, which will impact not just protecting our constitutional rights today but for generations to come.”
There are currently 118 vacancies on the federal courts.
Cruz said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the suspension of President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees, which he called “activist and lawless,” brings the stakes of judicial confirmations into sharp relief.
The senator also praised the Republican Senate majority for exercising their constitutional prerogative not to confirm Judge Merrick Garland.
“I think the Senate majority was exactly right when we declined to confirm President Obama’s nomination to fill the Scalia vacancy,” he said. “It has been over 80 years since the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court nominee for a vacancy that occurred during a presidential election.”
During his appearance on the CPAC main stage with radio host Mark Levin, Cruz said another Supreme Court vacancy could well arise this summer, though he was not more specific.
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