Senate

Roberts sparks backlash from conservative senators with DACA ruling

Conservative senators are fuming over the Supreme Court’s ruling blocking President Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and, in particular, Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion.

The 5-4 ruling was the latest blow to both the Trump administration and judicial conservatives on Capitol Hill, after a Monday decision that workers can’t be fired for being gay or transgender.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Roberts was posturing as a “Solomon who will save our institutions from political controversy and accountability.”

“If the Chief Justice believes his political judgment is so exquisite, I invite him to resign, travel to Iowa, and get elected. I suspect voters will find his strange views no more compelling than do the principled justices on the Court,” Cotton said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) railed against Roberts during a Senate floor speech.

“Judging is not a game. It’s not supposed to be a game but sadly over recent years more and more, Chief Justice Roberts has been playing games with the court to achieve the policy outcomes he desires,” Cruz said.

Roberts sided with the court’s liberal wing on Thursday when it blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end an Obama-era program that shields nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Roberts also joined Trump nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Monday ruling.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that the Supreme Court increasingly “appears to be legislating.”

“What really troubles a lot of people is that some of the folks that the Republican Party has put on this bench … because they say that they understand that their job is to interpret the law, not to write it, are becoming activists,” Rubio said. “It’s concerning.”

When a reporter noted that it sounded like he was frustrated with Roberts, Rubio added: “Obviously Roberts has been at the core at some of these decisions.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), in a tweet, said that it was the “most disappointing week” for the Supreme Court in years.

“The problem here is what you’ve essentially done is you’ve said … one administration can put in a set of rules by executive fiat but then another administration … can’t reverse those rules,” Hawley said.

Asked if he was disappointed in Roberts, Hawley added that he thought justices were capable but he was “disappointed in the decision for sure.”

“I’m disappointed with this pattern that we’re seeing,” he added. “This is not a good week for textualists.”

It’s hardly the first time Roberts, who was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, has rankled Republicans.

Roberts joined with the court’s liberal wing in 2019 when it ruled that the Trump administration did not give an adequate reason for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, blocking the question for at least the time being.

He also joined with the liberal wing in a 2012 ruling that upheld Obamacare’s individual mandate, a decision that is still quick to spark conservative anger.

Cruz, on Thursday, compared the DACA decision to the health care ruling.

“That’s not clever. That’s lawless. The decision today was lawless. It was gamesmanship,” Cruz added.

While the conservative senators were frustrated by the Supreme Court’s ruling, other Republicans praised the decision. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called it “positive news for Dreamers.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters that “it was a good day.”

“I’m not going to say that Judge Roberts is less of a conservative because of his opinion on this,” she added.

–Updated at 8:35 p.m.

Tags DACA Donald Trump Immigration John Roberts Josh Hawley LGBTQ rights Lisa Murkowski Marco Rubio Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court Susan Collins Ted Cruz Tom Cotton

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