The US vice-president, Mike Pence, has criticized the supreme court chief justice, John Roberts, as a “disappointment to conservatives” after he sided with his four liberal colleagues in several recent high-profile rulings.
“We have great respect for the institution of the supreme court of the United States, but Chief Justice John Roberts has been a disappointment to conservatives whether it be the Obamacare decision or whether it be a spate of recent decisions,” the vice-president told Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview published on Thursday.
Pence and Donald Trump cast the supreme court as a campaign issue for Republicans in 2016, and have set out to do so again ahead of the November election.
Interviewer David Brody asked Pence if he was “scratching your head a little bit on John Roberts” adding: “Conservatives have had a track record of having some problems with supreme court justices you thought were gonna be a reliable vote.”
Roberts sided with his four liberal colleagues on several decisions, including one a Louisiana law that would have curtailed abortion access, and on job protections for LGBTQ Americans. The rulings enraged social conservatives, many of whom specifically blamed Roberts for the decisions.
“I think several cases out of the supreme court are a reminder of just how important this election is for the future of the supreme court,” Pence told CBN.
Pence, who is fervently anti-abortion, particularly cited Louisiana’s efforts to restrict reproductive rights, which the court ruled were unconstitutional earlier this year.
“I think it’s a wake up call for pro-life voters around the country who understand, in a very real sense, that the destiny of the supreme court is in on the ballot in 2020,” he said, adding that Trump intended to “appoint more principled conservatives to our courts” if he wins the election.
Trump has promised to release a list of names of potential conservative judges to nominate to the supreme court as a way to rally Republicans in support of his campaign, as he did in 2016.
Pence also aimed to fire up the Republican party’s conservative base on a visit Florida’s Tampa Bay area this week, touring a pregnancy center and speaking at a church.
Pence’s visit highlighted his conservative Christian stance, courting religious voters in part by seeking to frame Democrats as a threat to religious freedom. He made the trip with his daughter, Charlotte Pence Bond.
He told about 200 people in the crowded ballroom at the Hilton in Clearwater that during this election, America is at a crossroads between “a society grounded in freedom” versus one grounded in “socialism”.
“The choice we face is whether America will remain America,” he said.
Pence claimed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden supports “abortion on demand”, and said Biden supports late term abortion, a rare procedure usually only performed if the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s health or there are fetal medical conditions.
Earlier in the day, Pence toured A Woman’s Place Medical Clinic – a pregnancy center with an anti-abortion stance – and attended an anti-abortion event at a church. About 50 people attended, with many dressed in blue “I VOTE PRO-LIFE” T-shirts.
He said that if Biden is elected, he would “undo all the progress” the anti-abortion movement has made in the US since the 1973 passage of Roe v Wade, which established abortion rights nationwide.
“Life is winning in America,” Pence told the crowd.