Rand Paul Goads Conservatives on Judicial Restraint
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By JANET HOOK
Sen. Rand Paul (R. Ky.) addresses the 2015 Conservative Policy Summit at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 13. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) prides himself on being a gadfly in the Senate and the GOP, and Tuesday he brought his gadfly routine into the heart of the conservative movement.
In a 15-minute speech at the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Paul – a libertarian-leaning Republican who is considering a presidential bid in 2016 – challenged the audience to rethink a piece of conservative gospel: opposition to judicial activism.
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Many conservatives are rigorous proponents of judicial restraint because they oppose court rulings advancing socially liberal values such as limits on religious practices in schools or those defending abortion rights.
Instead, Mr. Paul argued that he opposed judicial restraint in some cases – such as when the court refused to strike down major elements of the 2010 health-care law because it would override the will of the majority — and supported judicial activism when, for example, the court struck down racial segregation.
“It’s not as simple as we make it sound,” he said. “I don’t want judges writing laws.” He does want judges “to take an activist role in the defense of liberty.”
He acknowledged it was a tough argument to make in the small audience of conservatives at Heritage. Indeed, only a single person clapped when he argued in favor of the “presumption of liberty” as the starting point of assessing court rulings rather than knee-jerk support for judicial restraint.