Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy on Monday named Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee among several hard-line conservatives he would consider for the Supreme Court if elected, while also including the judges behind contentious rulings on abortion pills and the federal Covid-19 mask mandate on his list for possible appeals court nominations.
Ramaswamy, 37, a biotech entrepreneur who is largely self-funding his campaign, has struggled to break through in the GOP primary contest dominated by higher-profile figures such as former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He is known for his headline-seeking campaign proposals, including calls to raise the voting age to 25, end birthright citizenship and eliminate race-based preferences “in every sphere of our lives.” He also called on other presidential contenders to commit to pardoning Trump following the former president’s indictment over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office.
Besides Cruz and Lee, Ramaswamy’s Supreme Court short list also includes Paul Clement, a GOP superlawyer known for litigating some of the most consequential Supreme Court cases in recent years, and Judge James Ho, a Trump appointee who is considered one of the most conservative and strident members of the right-leaning 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
Trump-appointed US Circuit Judges Justin Walker, who sits on the DC Circuit; Lisa Branch, of the 11th Circuit; Lawrence VanDyke, seated on the 9th Circuit; and John Bush, of the 6th Circuit are also on Ramaswamy’s list of potential Supreme Court contenders, as is 3rd Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman, a George W. Bush appointee whom Trump considered for the high court.
With his list, Ramaswamy is touting several jurists known for controversial legal opinions that strike at cultural lightning rods. Ho, for instance, once described abortion as a “moral tragedy” in a 2018 concurring opinion and said in a 2019 concurrence that abortion was “the immoral, tragic, and violent taking of innocent human life.” Both opinions were written before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.
Meanwhile, VanDyke was scrutinized during his appeals court confirmation process over his extensive background of anti-LGBTQ writings and legal positions, with the normally staid American Bar Association bluntly criticizing his ability to be fair to LGBTQ litigants. (VanDyke pushed back on the allegations the ABA made in its qualification letter for the then-nominee.) Bush also came under fire when his nomination was before the Senate over his use of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in public writings. Since joining the 6th Circuit bench, he upheld an anti-abortion law in a notable ruling.
On Monday, Ramaswamy also laid out district court judges he would eye for appellate vacancies if elected president, including several who authored hot-button legal rulings. Among them are Matthew Kacsmaryk, of the Northern District of Texas, who issued a ruling that sought to pull abortion medication drugs off the market, before the decision was reversed by higher courts; and Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who sits on the Middle District of Florida and who struck down the Biden administration’s Covid-19 mask mandate for public transportation.
Ramaswamy’s move is evocative of Trump announcing a list of potential Supreme Court nominees in 2016, when he first ran for president. Trump, however, was already seen as the presumptive GOP nominee at the time.