Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives'

Vice President Pence on Wednesday said Chief Justice John Roberts has been a "disappointment to conservatives," a rare direct rebuke of the top justice after he ruled against the Trump administration in a series of recent cases.

"Look, we have great respect for the institution of the Supreme Court of the United States, but Chief Justice John Roberts has been a disappointment to conservatives," Pence told Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody, citing Roberts's role in upholding the Affordable Care Act and his more recent swing vote rejecting a Nevada church's request to overturn a state cap on attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think several cases out of the Supreme Court are a reminder of just how important this election is for the future of the Supreme Court," Pence continued. "We remember the issue back in 2016, which I believe loomed large in voters’ decisions between Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close MORE and the man who became president of the United States."

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Pence called the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Louisiana abortion law "a wake up call for pro-life voters around the country who understand in a very real sense that the destiny of the Supreme Court is on the ballot in 2020."

Roberts sided with the court's four liberal justices in the Louisiana abortion case and the Nevada church case. He also was part of a 5-4 majority that blocked Trump's attempt to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and he sided with the 6-3 majority in ruling that workers can’t be fired for being gay or transgender.

The decisions have drawn outrage from conservative lawmakers, but Pence's criticism marked the first time he or President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE have explicitly called out Roberts for his rulings.

Roberts has also sided with the Trump administration on a plethora of cases. He was part of a majority that upheld the administration's ability to detain immigrants with criminal records at any time, upheld Trump's use of military funds for wall construction on the southern border and upheld the president's travel ban early in his first term.

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Roberts was appointed to the high court by then-President George W. Bush in 2005. He was confirmed by the Senate in a 78-22 vote.

He has previously tangled with Trump when he pushed back on the president's criticism of an "Obama judge" who ruled against the administration. Roberts also presided over Trump's Senate impeachment, which ultimately ended with the president's acquittal on two charges.

Appointing conservative judges has been a key accomplishment for Trump and a major sticking point for conservatives, including some who are uneasy with the president's incendiary rhetoric. Trump courted conservative voters in 2016 by releasing a list of would-be nominees to any Supreme Court vacancy while he was in office, and he has pledged to do the same ahead of November's vote.

Updated at 10:34 p.m.