Remarks by Vice President Mike Pence to the Federalist Society
12:00 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. And thank you, Gene, thank you for your great leadership of the Federalists. Give Gene a round of applause for heaven’s sake, please. The Federalist Society with -- distinction. (Applause.) Thank you for the warm introduction.
To my friend -- Leonard Leo, everybody, is in the house. (Applause.) Ambassador Gray, members of the Federalist Society, honored guests, it’s a privilege to be with you. It’s a privilege to be with you here in this place, in Congress Hall at such a time as this in the life of our nation.
I bring you greetings, and I’m here today on behalf of the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, who appreciates the Federalist Society -- (applause) -- and all that it stands for. (Applause.) It’s truly humbling to be in this position and to be in this place today. Thank you all of you, members of the Federalist Society, for your support and your hard work over the past year. It was quite a campaign, but it’s already been quite an administration, am I right? (Laughter and applause.)
And I know the President feels the same way as I do, that we’re here in no small part because of your commitment and the ideals of the Federalist Society to restore the promise of America.
And it’s fitting that we’re in Philadelphia today, in the shadow of Independence Hall, only steps away from where our Founding Fathers proclaimed ideals that have echoed throughout the ages. They declared these truths to be self-evident, that we are, all of us, created equal, and that we are endowed not by government, but that we are endowed, as the President himself recited this week at the National Prayer Breakfast, endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights of life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That principle is at the center of the American experience, and it will always be. (Applause.)
The men who wrote these words will ever be honored in the American pantheon -- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and so many more. The documents they drafted, the Declaration of Independence, the year in which they signed it, 1776, are now synonymous with freedom of the world. What they did that day is the greatest gift we have as sons and daughters of the United States. It’s humbling to be so near to where they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Yet our Founders were not finished with their noble work, were they? In the words of Abraham Lincoln, they had labored to create an “apple of gold.” Now they needed a “picture of silver” to frame it in, to “adorn” and to “preserve” the principles at the heart of our exceptional experiment in self-government. And so it would be 11 years later, in the summer of 1787, our Founding Fathers returned to Independence Hall. They came to craft a framework of government that would protect those timeless ideals -- the ideals that bind us together as a people and give us purpose as a nation.
They gave us the Constitution of the United States of America. (Applause.) It was, it is, and I believe it will forever be the greatest charter of liberty our world has ever seen. It has fostered our nation’s unparalleled success. And it is, to this day, the greatest bulwark against tyranny in history.
This is the Constitution that President Trump and I have both sworn to uphold. On January 20th, just over two weeks ago, we stood before the American people and before God, and we made solemn vows. In my oath of office, I simply promised to “support and defend the Constitution,” as did the President. And I promise you, we will keep that oath. (Applause.)
People keep asking me what it was like up there on the stage. I tell people it was just very humbling -- it was humbling for me to be there. You see, my grandfather came to this country from a little town in Ireland called Tubercurry when he was about our son’s age. He got on a boat, he crossed the Atlantic, and he went through Ellis Island and took a train to Chicago, Illinois, where he drove a bus for 40 years. He was the proudest man I ever knew. The fact that Richard Michael Cawley had the courage to cross that ocean is why Michael Richard Pence is now the Vice President of the United States of America.
It is, I expect, startling to him -- knowing me as well as he did -- (laughter) -- in more ways than one. I found myself thinking up on that stage what that Irishman must be thinking looking down from Glory, and I’ve only come to one conclusion: He was right. Not about me, he was right about America, where anybody can be anybody because of the system of liberty that we have enshrined in the Constitution and the founding documents of this nation. (Applause.)
That moment was made all the more special to me because of the man who administered my oath of office, Justice Clarence Thomas. (Applause.) I’m privileged to have met Justice Thomas about a decade ago, when I was a member of Congress, and privileged to have a chance to get acquainted with a man of his conviction and his courage on the Supreme Court of the United States. I know everyone in this room holds Justice Thomas in the same high regard. Not only that, we want to aid him in his lonely fight -- his lonely fight too often on the Supreme Court -- and we can do that best by giving Justice Clarence Thomas another colleague on the bench who shares his courage and his commitment to our nation’s guiding documents. And this we are doing. (Applause.)
You know, the American people elected President Trump I believe in significant part because of his vow to do just that --- to nominate someone to the Supreme Court in the mold of not only Justice Thomas, but also of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia. (Applause.) It was such a special night earlier this week when we were joined not only by our nominee and his wife, but also by the widow of Justice Scalia and his son, who was with us there and shared that moment. Justice Antonin Scalia’s devotion to the Constitution will be forever remembered by the people of the United States of America. (Applause.)
But this was President Trump’s promise. And make no mistake about it, my friends in the Federalist Society, we’re in the promise-keeping business in Washington, D.C. now.
Before I say any more, it behooves us to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy and to honor his memory. We all knew the late Justice, some of you personally, others through his titanic impact on our nation’s laws. The Federalist Society actually owes him a great deal. Justice Scalia was one of its first faculty mentors in the early 1980s, I’m told, at the University of Chicago. Our country owes a great deal to him, too. His incomparable opinions -- even more, his incisive dissents -- will stand the test of time, influencing future generations of lawyers through his wit and wisdom. As his successor said the other night, America misses Justice Scalia greatly. And I know we’ll always cherish him in our hearts. Would you mind getting to your feet and just showing how much we appreciate the life and work and memory of the late Justice Antonin Scalia? (Applause.)
I mentioned before that last week, I had the great privilege to speak with the Justice’s widow, Maureen. And the President had asked me to invite her to join us at the White House, as I said, for the Supreme Court announcement the next day. But during the conversation, I told her that President Trump was about to nominate a worthy replacement for her husband and before I could go any further, she stopped me and said, actually, that’s not how the President puts it. She said, “The President actually told me that no one can replace my husband. They can only succeed him.” (Laughter.) Isn’t that wonderful? And it’s true, and we all know why.
And that’s why President Trump devoted so much energy to picking the best possible nominee. Last year, President Trump took the unprecedented step of releasing a list of the 21 men and women he was considering for the Supreme Court. There was full transparency literally every step of the way, unprecedented transparency in this process. Each individual the President named shared several key qualifications: sterling academic credentials, a brilliant legal mind, and an unwavering commitment to the Constitution of the United States.
Four days ago, as you all know, President Trump nominated someone who fits this description to a tee: Judge Neil M. Gorsuch. (Applause.)
My friends, I can say with the utmost confidence: Judge Gorsuch is a worthy successor to Justice Antonin Scalia.
By the grace of God, and with what I know will be the tireless efforts of everyone in this room, I believe Neil Gorsuch soon take his seat as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. (Applause.)
When you get right down to it, Judge Gorsuch plain and simple is one of the most mainstream, respected, and exceptionally qualified Supreme Court nominees in American history.
But don’t take my word for it. That actually was the conclusion of the American Bar Association in 2006. (Laughter.) After President George W. Bush nominated him to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the ABA gave him a unanimous rating of “well-qualified” -- which is the highest possible recommendation.
And the United States Senate agreed. Only two months after Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the court of appeals, the Senate confirmed him by a unanimous voice vote, and nearly a third of those senators, on both sides of the aisle, are still serving in the Senate today. A unanimous vote. As President Trump asked on Tuesday, “can you believe that?” (Laughter.)
Oh, yes, you can, when you look at Judge Gorsuch’s record ever since. In his decade on the 10th Circuit, he has established himself as a fair and impartial judge who has been faithful to the Constitution. He is well-known by his peers as a keen legal thinker and, just as important, a clear legal writer. It’s evident to all that he’s a man also of high character and courage -- indispensable qualities for a jurist.
Over the past few days it’s been amazing to see the outpouring of support from those who know Judge Gorsuch and his work. Ed Whelan from the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former clerk to Justice Scalia declared him a “dedicated originalist and textualist” who “writes with clarity, force, and verve.”
The Wall Street Journal praised him as a “distinguished choice who will adhere to the original meaning of the Constitution.”
And Leonard Leo, who of course is here, called him an “exceptional jurist.”
By the way, Leonard, let me say again how much I and the President appreciate your tireless work on behalf of our country and the Constitution. We are grateful for all you have done. (Applause.)
Now, I should also note that Judge Gorsuch is so well-liked that even those who disagree with him sing his praises.
Norm Eisen, President Obama’s former ethics czar, simply said Judge Gorsuch is “a great guy.”
And Neal Katyal, the acting solicitor general under President Obama, endorsed Judge Gorsuch in the strongest possible terms. He called him “an extraordinary judge” who will “help restore confidence in the rule of law.”
That’s what this is really all about, isn’t it? Our constitutional order requires the rule of law, without exception. We are, after all, a nation of laws.
Judge Gorsuch firmly understands this. He has said on many occasions that judges must apply the law as written, without regard to their own politics or personal feelings.
He put it well on Tuesday and movingly, saying “in our legal order it’s for Congress and not the courts to write new laws.” He added, “It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives.” And my favorite line sitting as I was on the front row was this one -- he said: “A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s my kind of Supreme Court justice. (Applause.)
But it’s not just his words. Judge Gorsuch’s record on the bench clearly demonstrates his fidelity to the wisdom of the Founders rather than the whims of our own day and age.
He has written more than 200 published opinions in his decade on the 10th Circuit. And if you read them all, and some have, which the President’s team I promise you did, an unmistakable picture emerges: He is an originalist and a textualist who will pick up right where Justice Scalia left off.
Judge Gorsuch has such a long history of upholding the separation of powers and the checks and balances between the three branches. He also defends the Constitution’s unique system of federalism, and he restricts the national government to the specific and enumerated powers enshrined in the Constitution, while leaving to the states much more sizeable control over their lives and destinies.
These carefully calibrated mechanisms, so wisely designed by our Founding Fathers, are a strong foundation for the protection of the American people’s fundamental liberties. By defending them, Judge Gorsuch has shown himself to be a true friend of our freedoms.
It should be abundantly clear that Judge Neil Gorsuch is indeed a worthy successor to Justice Antonin Scalia. He is cut from the same cloth. Our Constitution and our country will be stronger with him on the Supreme Court.
But we're not there yet, which is why I’m here. (Laughter.) First, of course, we must abide by the Constitution and secure the “advice and consent of the Senate.”
The morning after his nomination, I had the privilege of escorting Judge Gorsuch to Capitol Hill for the first time. I’m pleased to report in just a few short days he has already met with 12 senators in both political parties. And he making himself available to meet with all 100 members of the Senate -- if they’re willing to meet with him.
Of course, several announced their opposition within minutes of his nomination. And now they’re even threatening to filibuster procedure in the Senate to stop him. Make no mistake about it, this would be an unwise and an unprecedented act.
Never before in the history of our country has an associate justice nominee to the Supreme Court faced a successful filibuster, and Judge Neil M. Gorsuch should not be the first. (Applause.)
Now let me tell you, President Trump and I have full confidence that Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed. But rest assured, we will work with the Senate leadership to ensure that Judge Gorsuch gets an up or down vote on the Senate floor -- one way or the other. (Applause.)
This seat does not belong to any party, or any ideology, or any interest group. This seat on the Supreme Court belongs to the American people, and the American people deserve a vote on the floor of the United States Senate. (Applause.)
My friends, this is a historic time for our country. We are on the verge literally of reaffirming the supremacy of the Constitution on our nation’s Supreme Court. We are giving a new voice to the age-old vision of our Founding Fathers. We are rededicating ourselves and our country to the timeless principles that they proclaimed only a few steps away from right where we’re standing today.
Under President Trump’s leadership, we are returning power to the American people, the rightful rulers of the greatest nation the world has ever known.
We have much work to do, but I’m confident with the grace of God, we will accomplish the task before us. So let me just close by saying thank you. Thank you to all of you for your work as men and women of the law, participants in the Federalist Society, your own fealty to the Constitution of the United States and the way you live that out in your lives and in your careers.
I must tell you that it’s inspiring to be with you today. And I truly do believe that for all our nation has accomplished over these last 241 years, I’m absolutely confident that as we keep faith with the ideals that were first minted just a few steps away from here in our founding documents -- in that Declaration and in that Constitution -- the best days for America are yet to come.
Thank you very much and God bless you and may God bless --(applause).
1:22 P.M. EST