As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was driving his wife and two young daughters to Mt. Vernon the other day, one daughter asked the other what she wanted to do when she grew up. “I want to work with daddy in the Senate,” one said. “That’s boring!” the other replied. “Let’s be in a rock band. Besides, daddy will be dead by then.”
“I thought maybe she’d been talking to Senate Republican leadership,” Cruz quipped to the national convention for the Federalist Society (“Fed Soc”) Thursday in D.C., to thunderous laughter and applause.
While Cruz tweaked some fellow Republicans with that joke, he mainly took aim at President Barack Obama, decrying what he calls the “pattern of lawlessness” of the Obama White House.
He criticized the waivers of major parts of Obamacare given to certain big businesses and members of Congress, “both of which are illegal,” he said sharply, pointing out that the Affordable Care Act does not authorize those provisions in the statute to be waived.
This is part of a larger pattern of disregarding the law, Cruz elaborated, pointing to Obama’s cancelling deportations of vast numbers of illegal aliens, and the administration’s recent announcement that the Justice Department will stop prosecuting certain federal drug crimes. He described the administration’s approach as, “We don’t like these laws, so we are not going to enforce them.”
Cruz focused his remarks to this group of distinguished judges and lawyers on what he calls “the radical push by the Justice Department under President Obama for unchecked federal power.” And he noted how those arguments have fared in court.
Although many contentious Supreme Court cases in the news are decided by a 5 to 4 vote, Cruz noted that the nine justices of the Supreme Court had unanimously ruled against the Obama Justice Department in nine cases so far, which is triple the rate at which the Court disagreed with the Bush administration.
He mentioned five cases in particular, which happened to speak to five high priorities for different constituencies in the Republican Party. Four dealt with government surveillance, property rights, religious liberty, and state sovereignty, respectively.
The fifth case dealt with freedom of thought and speech, when Cruz discussed the 2010 Citizens United case, where Obama’s Justice Department argued that “the federal government has full constitutional authority to ban books.”
Cruz spent the rest of his speech talking about the Federalist Society’s mission and principles. He discussed originalism, thee legal philosophy to which Fed Soc is dedicated. Originalists believe that in our democratic republic, unelected federal judges must assign to the words in each provision of the Constitution (or any law) the meaning that the voters of that time would have understood those words to mean.
The Lone Star State’s junior senator–who has been a Fed Soc member since his days at Harvard Law School–lauded the Society’s growing influence on the courts since its founding in 1982. “Originalism wasn’t even taken as a joke [back then]–it wasn’t even that serious.”
As Cruz put it, Fed Soc’s influence on the approach used by the federal courts proves it knows how to “win the battle of ideas and transform laws.” He pointed to the Supreme Court’s popular decision in D.C. v. Heller, where the Supreme Court examined what the words of the Second Amendment meant in 1791 (when the Bill of Rights was ratified by the states) to conclude that the amendment guaranteed the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns.
More such cases are sure to come. The standing ovation Cruz received from the hundreds of law professors and elite attorneys strongly suggests that–like the outspoken senator–the Federalist Society has no plans to back down anytime soon.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.