Sen. Mike Lee said Thursday he’s been watching the Supreme Court since he was 10 years old, and he’s honored to be on President Donald Trump’s shortlist to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — and if his brother, Thomas, is picked over him, that “would be fantastic” as well.
“I admire Justice Kennedy,” the Utah Republican told Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” “He is someone who has devoted more than 30 years of service to the U.S. Supreme Court. I do respect the fact that he stood behind federalism and separation of powers.”
Lee said that he started watching the Supreme Court as a child, as he went with his father, Rex Lee who served as solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan, “just for fun.”
Lee’s brother, Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee, is also on Trump’s shortlist, and should he be nominated, “it would be fantastic,” the senator said.
“My brother is a terrific jurist,” Lee told the program, joking that he would “really enjoy the opportunity grill him as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee” if he gets the Trump nomination.
Lee said he does have a good relationship with Trump, even if they don’t always see eye to eye on every issue.
“But on the whole, I have supported his efforts to restore federalism, to restore separation of powers,” said Lee. “These are different ways of saying to drain the swamp. And I think he and I see eye to eye on most things when it comes to the Supreme Court of the United States. So, again, I have got confidence that he can make the right decision, especially given that he is going to be focusing on this list. He chooses from that list. I think the Senate will confirm someone from that list.”
Whoever is nominated will face a slim margin of being confirmed in the Senate, especially with Sen. John McCain’s ongoing absence while he fights cancer, but Lee said that it’s his understanding that he’ll be able to cast a vote if it’s for his own nomination.
“My understanding is that’s what the Senate rules allow, and that you are still a senator until you are no longer a senator,” said Lee. “You are still a senator at the moment that you are being considered for something like that.”
Lee also discounted fears that some cases could be overturned should a Republican appointee be named, including on Roe v. Wade.
“It’s one thing for them to assume that a Republican appointee might come at those issues from a different world view as a matter of first impression,” said Lee. “They have to take into account the doctrine of stare decisis, which is a doctrine which generally puts the Supreme Court on a path following precedent, so, they can’t know for sure how any one of those issues is going to turn out and whether any one of those cases might be overturned.”
Meanwhile, Lee’s brother is not commenting about being on the president’s shortlist, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, but last year, when the Lee brothers also were put on the shortlist, Thomas Lee was the person named in a study as the person on Trump’s list would be most likely to fill the role held by conservative late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The upcoming court vacancy puts another Utah Republican lawmaker, Sen. Orrin Hatch, in the spotlight. The lawmaker, who has been in the Senate for 42 years, is retiring at the end of this year, but has had a role in the conformations of every current Supreme Court justice.