But the senator’s past positions — and views on Trump — might pose a problem.
By Jane Coastonjane.email@example.com Jun 27, 2018, 7:00pm EDT
Conservatives reacting to Wednesday’s announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement already have a popular choice for his replacement: Sen. Mike Lee.
Lee, from Utah, is a firebrand conservative and original Tea Party member loved by many libertarians and conservatives, but despised among establishment Republicans who saw his hardline moves as self-defeating.
Erick EricksonLast summer, for example, he torpedoed a Republican plan to repeal Obamacare. “It seems like he’s against everything right now,” his fellow senator from Utah, Orin Hatch, said in an interview with Politico. “That’s the way it looks to me.”
If the President went with Mike Lee, he'd eliminate the oppo research hits on a nominee, he'd get an obstacle out of the Senate, and he'd make conservatives really happy.
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And he’s widely blamed for helping Sen. Ted Cruz shut down the government in 2013.
When Lee ran for reelection in 2014, fellow Utah Republican Jon Huntsman called him an “embarrassment to our family, to our state, to our country to have him as a U.S. senator”
Though Lee is a lawyer, he’s not a traditional pick for a Supreme Court justice, as he’s not a legal scholar or sitting judge.
Nonetheless, Lee’s on President Donald Trump’s short-list of potential Supreme Court picks, and the senator has already said he “would not say no” if asked to serve.
Longtime friend and ally, Cruz, told Fox News that Lee would be his ideal choice.
Other conservatives and libertarians echoed similar views on Wednesday, including conservative writer Erick Erickson, Fox News commentator Guy Benson, and Commentary magazine’s John Podhoretz.
Senator Ted Cruz
ICYMI on @FoxNews: "I think the single best choice that President Trump could make to fill this #SCOTUS vacancy is @SenMikeLee"
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Reason magazine’s Eric Boehm wrote Wednesday, “conservatives have plenty of reasons to like the prospect of a Justice Mike Lee,” and added, “libertarians would be hard pressed to find much ... to complain about Lee sitting on the Supreme Court, where he could fill Kennedy’s “swing vote” role and steer the court in an originalist direction.”
This isn’t the first time Lee has been pushed by conservatives as a possible Supreme Court choice; in 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Lee had the support of many Republicans as a potential Trump SCOTUS nominee, including then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and the powerful Heritage Foundation, which described Lee as having a “deep devotion to the Constitution” and added, “his speeches and writings ... reflect a keen desire to restore important constitutional principles, which he acknowledges is a daunting endeavor.”
Lee’s political views are a mixed bag of traditional conservatism and pro-privacy libertarian (a la Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, with whom Lee has voted against major defense bills, breaking with the GOP). It’s unclear just how realistic his chances are of landing on the Supreme Court, given both his past disagreements with other conservatives and his history with President Trump.
But the fact that he’s in the mix shows that at least some conservatives view him as just the “strict constructionist” they’re looking for on the Supreme Court — complete with Tea Party leanings and a willingness to divide.