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Rubio discusses the Supreme Court at Federalist Society’s Florida Chapters Conference

Feb 14, 2017 | Blog

The second is the Supreme Court nomination, I believe, is an extraordinary educational opportunity for our country, and I find it disturbing that by and large, today, in America, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court. I hear people come up to me and say, “Well, we want someone that’s compassionate,” and I like compassionate people. “We want someone that’s open-minded,” and I like that too in people, and those are not bad attributes to have as a human being. They’re actually pretty good attributes to have as a policymaker, and they certainly aren’t things that would disqualify you from being on the Supreme Court, but quite frankly, they’re not the job of the Supreme Court Justice.
And so when people think that we’re appointing people because of the things they believe in, the most important thing they need to believe in is not a specific public policy outcome. It has to be whether they truly understand that their job is not to be a trier of fact, but a trier of the law, to look at the case before them, and reach a conclusion about whether or not the government, in many cases that’s the government being challenged, has the power to do what they did, and that’s why Justice Scalia, from time to time, would reach these conclusions that ran counter to probably what his personal beliefs were, because Justice Scalia understood that that wasn’t his job. He may disagree with the outcome, but he was prepared to say that it was wrong.
It’s why I’ve always said to people when they talk about executive orders, “Look, I’m in favor of reducing the tax burden in America, but if tomorrow the President signs an executive order saying, ‘I order the IRS to only collect 25 percent, even though the legislative language says 35%,’ I agree with the policy outcome, but I would oppose the executive action because it undermines the separation of power, the constitutional duties assigned to each office,” and that’s the kind of justices we need. And so this is an important opportunity for us to really educate the American people about the proper role of the Court, and there’s this sense out there that the Court are basically this panel of super-legislators designed to supervise and clean up whatever mistakes are made at the policy realm by the President or by the Congress, and we really need to correct that, or we’re going to wind up in a very bad place as a country, where the Constitution becomes a bunch of words on an ancient document that no longer have any meaning in our daily lives.
And I think that really begins by explaining to people the importance of the Constitution in and of itself, because oftentimes, we talk about how important the Constitution is in the same way that we tell people it’s good to eat broccoli. “It’s good for you, it’s a good thing,” but we don’t explain why it’s a good thing. The purpose of the Constitution is not to empower government, but to limit its power, because it was written and designed by people who had had a pretty bad experience with centralized government. They came to the conclusion, rightfully so, that all human beings are deeply flawed, and that given enough power, those flaws will turn into abuses, tyranny, or really bad ideas, and so they were very distrustful of governmental power.

And if you look at where America stands today, the consolidation of governmental power has had a devastating impact on every aspect of our lives, and it really tracks right back to the loss of federalism, hence the name of this organization, The Federalist Society. I don’t think this country has ever needed it more than it needs today, because while we are still a country and we are united by some basic principles that should unite us, the great challenge of America is, we’ve never been a nation founded on a common ethnicity or a common race, common religion, even a common background in terms of our ancestry. What’s kind of united us as a nation is a commitment to an idea, the notion that all people have a God-given right to life, to liberty, and to pursue happiness. That’s a very powerful idea, and, by the way, a very revolutionary one, because up until about 200-some-odd years ago, that notion didn’t exist.