Biotech entrepreneur and Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy on Monday released a list of 16 people he'd nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court or federal appellate courts if he becomes president, making him the first in the party's field to itemize his possible top judicial appointments.
Ramaswamy's list includes Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah as possible nominees for the nation's top court, as well as elevating federal judges who struck down President Joe Biden's airplane mask mandate and the FDA's two-decade-long approval of the abortion pill.
The direction of the Supreme Court was a powerful issue for Donald Trump in his 2016 bid. Conservative voters' hunger to have a Republican president be the one to appoint a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in early 2016, helped land the former reality TV star in the White House.
Trump in the 2016 primary released his own list of possible appointments to the high court to reassure his new party's voters that he was in line with their judicial agenda.
In an interview, Ramaswamy, 37, said he was releasing the list of possible appointments to show voters where he stood.
"It's important, when you're asking voters to select the next president of the United States, that you be as transparent as you can about what you're going to do," Ramaswamy said.
Ramaswamy is the latest Republican candidate trying to recapture conservative enthusiasm around the court as Democrats have become increasingly energized by its conservative rulings.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he'd appoint stronger conservatives to the bench than did Trump, whose three appointees helped form the majority that rescinded the constitutional right for women to have abortions in a ruling last year, a longtime conservative goal. Trump himself has frequently reveled in the court's rulings and noted that he appointed half of the court's 6-3 conservative majority.
Ramaswamy said he sees no reason to criticize Trump's appointments.
"That is a bizarre criticism," he said of the argument that Trump's picks weren't conservative enough.
Ramaswamy's own list includes prominent conservative legal names. He said he'd only nominate Cruz or Lee if it wouldn't change the balance of the U.S. Senate, which Democrats currently control by a two-vote margin. Another prominent name on the list for the high court is Paul Clement, who served as former President George W. Bush's solicitor general.
Ramaswamy also proposes elevating several district court judges to the nation's appellate courts. He cites Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an Amarillo-based federal judge whose April ruling against the abortion pill was full of language of anti-abortion rights activists and was swiftly put on hold by appellate judges and then the Supreme Court.
The list also includes Kathryn Mizelle, who Trump nominated at age 38 to a judgeship in Florida and who struck down Biden's air travel mask mandate last year.
An additional prominent conservative judge who makes Ramaswamy's Supreme Court list is James Ho, another Trump nominee to a position on the Texas-based Fifth Circuit Court of appeals whose rulings are full of conservative political rhetoric. Ramaswamy said Ho first came to his attention because the judge quoted his own book, "Woke, Inc.," in one of his rulings.
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