Judge Neomi Rao’s position on abortion may be the reason why she was left off President Donald Trump’s shortlist of possible Supreme Court nominees, The Hill reports.
Last week, the president released his shortlist of picks for the high court that he would consider nominating if he is reelected.
Many conservatives noted that Rao’s name was missing from the list. Rao was placed on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2019. In her short time on the bench, she has ruled in favor of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, defended Trump against subpoenas for his personal records, and approved the administration’s effort to resume federal executions, according to The Hill.
Despite being a Trump ally and having a strong conservative background clerking for Justice Clarence Thomas and working in the George W. Bush White House among other jobs, a source close to the Trump administration said it is the judge’s stance on abortion that may have left her off the shortlist.
“The conservative movement is going to be watching her D.C. Circuit decisions closely on this issue,” one source close to the administration told The Hill.
She faced heat over her stance on abortion from lawmakers during her Senate confirmation process.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who was named on the shortlist, raised questions about Rao’s stance on abortion during the hearing before he voted for her confirmation.
He noted her past academic legal writing suggested she might believe in a doctrine that views abortion rights as compatible with the Constitution.
“American constitutional law has a long history of treating individual choice and autonomy as an integral and preeminent component of human worth,” she penned in a 2011 law review article.
The Hill reports that conservatives are paying close attention to judges’ positions on social issues after the liberals were victorious on several key Supreme Court cases this summer even though there are more conservatives on the bench.
Trump responded to the defeats by promising to release a shortlist of people he would consider naming to the bench if reelected to a second term.
“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump tweeted in June. “We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”
Ashley Baker, policy director for the conservative group Committee for Justice, was not a fan of Trump’s decision to leave Rao off the list and include Hawley.
She told The Hill that she believes the senator’s proposed benchmark on abortion for conservative judges will not be an effective way to evaluate nominees.
“Senator Hawley has proposed a sort of ‘litmus test’ for being on the record as pro-life,” she said in an email. “While there are debatably some larger problems with this form of results-oriented jurisprudence, the fundamental flaw with this proposal is that the test wouldn’t work.”
She defended her argument by claiming his approach would have still led to the confirmation of former Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, and David Souter, who were all appointed by Republican presidents but ended up becoming swing votes on several social issues.
Hawley tweeted he has “no interest in the high court" after the list came out.
“I appreciate the President’s confidence in listing me as a potential Supreme Court nominee,” Hawley posted last week. “But as I told the President, Missourians elected me to fight for them in the Senate, and I have no interest in the high court. I look forward to confirming constitutional conservatives.”
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