U.S. Vice President Pence’s Remarks at Federalist Society’s Seventh Annual Executive Branch Review Conference

The Mayflower Hotel

Washington, D.C.

4:20 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for that very warm welcome. And thank you to Leonard Leo not only for that overly generous introduction, but I want to thank Leonard for his tireless work over the last few years. Our administration and the nation owe you a debt of gratitude. Would you all join me in thanking Leonard Leo — (applause) — the Vice President of the Federalist Society, for all he’s done for America?

To Gene Meyer, to Dean Reuter, and distinguished guests: It really is an honor to join so many — so many of you who are part of this remarkable organization with an extraordinary history that’s impacting the life of the law and the life of our nation each and every day.

Thank you for inviting us to the Federalist Society’s Seventh Annual Executive Branch Review Conference. It’s an honor to be with all of you.

And I want to welcome some of you back to Washington, D.C. Though many of you work here, I always think of what President Kennedy said in describing our nation’s capital — those of you that are just visiting. He said Washington, D.C. is a place that combines southern efficiency with northern charm. (Laughter.) But I expect you have found this to be an enormously important day, hearing from key members, general counsels of administration branches, as well as the Chief of Staff of the White House earlier today.

And, mentioning people in our administration, allow me to bring greetings from a friend of mine and a great admirer of the Federalist Society and a tireless defender of the Constitution of the United States of America. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

The President is on Air Force One as we speak. He’s headed out to Florida and will be at a rally a little bit later today. But I did mention to him at our Cabinet meeting earlier today that I was speaking to members of the Federalist Society, and he was very excited about that. (Laughter.) He’s a great admirer of all of you.

And I expect — and I’ll reflect a bit on the record of the last two and a half years. It’s obvious how much we admire the men and women of the Federalist Society.

You know, it’s amazing to think the Federalist Society was founded nearly 40 years ago by a handful of law students who felt alienated by the dominance of liberalism on their campuses, and they simply wanted to take a stand for “the principles of limited government embodied in our Constitution” and give them a fair hearing in the courts and in the law.

In fact, when I was elected to Congress, back in the year 2000, I actually followed in the Congress one of the founders of the Federalist Society. He is a great Hoosier. He’s a source of great pride. Would you join me in welcoming one of the founders of the Federalist Society 40 years ago? The honorable David McIntosh is with us here today. (Applause.) Great job, David. Go ahead, stand up.

Well, from those backbench law students complaining four decades ago, since then, it’s remarkable to think what the Federalist Society has done. You fought to reorient the American legal system toward its original principles: “that the state exists to preserve freedom [and] that the separation of government powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.” (Applause.) The Federalist Society has stood on constitutional principle.

And, really, you’ve achieved incredible success. The Federalist Society, I’m told, actually helps educate more than 10,000 students at every accredited law school in America. Your Lawyers Division includes more than 65,000 legal professionals across the country. It’s truly remarkable.

And today, your members serve in positions all across the federal government, serving in the United States Congress, in district courts and courts of appeals. And five of the nine justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are or have been members of the Federalist Society. (Applause.)

What began as a small group scattered throughout a few law schools has become a powerful movement grounded in the principles of the American founding, leading the fight for constitutional principles that always made America great before and are making America great again. And I promise you, you have no greater friend in that fight than President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

You know, and make no mistake about it: The President and I both know the American people have stood with him, and in large part because he’s a man of his word and he kept his promises to cut taxes, roll back regulations, and rebuild our military. And this President has kept his promise to nominate strong conservatives to our federal courts at every level. (Applause.) True.

I mean, we all remember that morning in February of 2016 when news broke of the passing of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia. He was a lion of the law who, nearly four decades ago, actually helped found the Federalist Society.

In 1986, my second favorite President, Ronald Reagan — (laughter) — appointed him to serve on the Supreme Court, where he wrote hundreds of opinions, building the case for a renewed focus on what the Constitution actually says and not just what judges might like it to say.

Before Justice Scalia, this approach wasn’t popular. In fact, he once claimed, in his words, that, quote, “This is such a minority position…that on occasion I’m asked, ‘Justice Scalia, when did you first become an originalist?’ — as though it [was] some kind of weird affliction that seizes people.” (Laughter.)

But today, Justice Scalia’s legal reasoning is alive and well, and the men and women here at the Federalist Society are proof that the legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia lives on in the law in this nation. (Applause.)

And President Trump understood — in his time as a candidate, in his time in private life, and time as a President — the role that Justice Scalia has played in our nation’s highest court. And the President made history when, with your help, he released several lists of distinguished men and women that he promised to choose to fill who would — who would represent the legacy and fill the seat of the late, great Justice Scalia.

And since Election Day, I’m pleased to report we didn’t just fill that seat. This President has actually appointed more than 100 men and women to our federal courts, including more circuit court judges than any President in American history. And they are all conservatives — (applause) — who are committed to the principles enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.

And that doesn’t even count the two judges that this President chose for the Supreme Court of the United States. I’ve gotten to know both of them. I had the great privilege of participating in the process where the President was interviewing finalists and candidates. But the two men that he appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States are extraordinary conservatives who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined our Constitution. America and our Constitution are better today with Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the highest court in the land. (Applause.)

So we’ve made great progress, but we’re going to keep right on working. Earlier today, the United States, I’m pleased to report, confirmed another one of President Trump’s nominees to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Joseph Bianco is the 103rd federal judge confirmed to the bench, and he’s a member of the Federalist Society. (Applause.)

So, the Federalist Society is making a difference for our Constitution and our nation. And I couldn’t be more proud to be with all of you today. But we’re here today, I know, to discuss the focus of this year’s Executive Branch Conference: regulatory reform.

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that the — and I quote — “accumulation of all powers, legislative [and] executive and judicial…[is] the very definition of tyranny.” As we’ve seen all too often, federal agencies in the modern era frequently have exerted just that type of control.

But I’m proud to say, under President Trump’s leadership, we have taken decisive action, and the days of excessive regulations from Washington, D.C. are coming to an end. (Applause.)

In fact, I’m pleased to report we’ve cut more federal red tape in our first two years than any administration in American history.

We exceeded a goal that we set at the very beginning of our administration. In fact, when he was a candidate, the President promised the American people that we would repeal two federal regulations for every new federal rule put in the Code of Federal Regulations. But we didn’t do that. We actually, as of last year, have cut 12 federal regulations for every new federal rule put on the books. (Applause.) We’re rolling back red tape at a historic level, and it’s made a real difference in our economy.

As you’ve heard here today, and you all have reflected on, you know that has real impact on jobs and opportunities. Since Election Day, our administration has actually delivered, by most estimates, about $33 billion in regulatory savings for businesses large and small all across America. And that’s meant higher wages. It’s meant more jobs and more opportunities for Americans.

And the truth is, as you look at the agenda of this administration — of historic tax relief, unleashing American energy, and fighting for more free and fair and reciprocal trade — it’s been the regulatory relief that actually has been a capstone of all of that.

As I travel around the country, I hear — I hear business leaders tell me every single day that while the tax cuts made a difference, the regulatory relief made just as much a difference. And because of the leadership that the President has provided, and the support that we had from Republican majorities, the American economy is booming. (Applause.) It’s true.

Since Election Day, businesses large and small have created 5.8 million new jobs. Just last week, we announced more than 260,000 jobs were created in the month of April alone, exceeding expectations by all the experts and extending the longest streak of consecutive months of job growth ever.

The unemployment rate, as of last Friday, hit a nearly 50-year low, and today there are more Americans working than ever before in the history of the United States. (Applause.)

In fact, I was just in a Cabinet meeting and I heard a statistic confirmed that, for the 13th straight month, there are more job openings today than there are Americans looking for work. It’s remarkable. It’s the longest streak in American history. But also, it had actually never happened before since those labor statistics were accumulated.

I mean, it wouldn’t come as any surprise to members of the Federalist Society that when you let people keep more of what they earn, when you lift the heavy hand of government off of free enterprise, when you make efforts for better and fairer trade and exchange on an international basis, and you lower the cost of energy, you take three steps back and Americans know what to do with freedom, they create prosperity like the world has never seen before. (Applause.) True.

But for all that we’ve accomplished with the support of all of you in this room, that’s just what President Trump likes to call a good start. It’s true. Because we understand that slashing red tape, rolling back the heavy hand of the administrative state, is about more than just economic growth.

President Trump’s agenda is simple. It’s about freedom. The freedom to live, to work, to start a business, to worship, to live out your life according to the dictates of your conscience. It’s the American agenda. That’s why, since day one, this President has fought to defend the freedom of the American people from, in his words, “government coercion, domination, and control.”

We stopped the last administration’s effort to force employers to provide health insurance plans that violated their pro-life principles, and we expanded and strengthened a religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate so all Americans can live out their faith in freedom without fear. (Applause.)

Working with the Department of Labor, we’ve taken action to make it easier for small businesses to offer health insurance to their employees through association health plans.

Another example: The VA has removed unnecessary regulations to expand veterans’ access to telehealth services so that those who have served in the uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States can get the real-time, world-class healthcare they deserve.

The EPA — (applause) — thank you. You can applaud those fine men and women. They deserve it. (Applause.)

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are working to undo the damage of the last administration’s “Waters of the USA.” It was a rule that literally had farmers and homeowners all across the country concerned about the loss of basic private property rights.

And we’re — we’re cutting the federal red tape that slows down the deployment of new technologies like the 5G wireless networks.

We’ve had remarkable success rolling back the heavy hand of government, and the Federalist Society has been with us every step of the way. And the President and I are truly grateful for your steadfast support.

Unfortunately, as you’ve no doubt reflected on today, the kind of government control that our Founders were concerned about is too often exerted by the administrative state in this country. And it’s been emerging in recent years in the federal judiciary in the form of nationwide injunctions.

These orders are issued by federal district court judges on a broad range of issues — from national security to immigration, from border security to healthcare reform. And these orders prevent the entire Executive Branch from enforcing a statute, a regulation, or a policy on a nationwide basis. And they apply everywhere, to everyone, granting relief even to those who are not parties to a case.

As Justice Thomas wrote last year in a decision upholding President Trump’s ability to enforce our immigration laws against nationwide injunctions, Justice Thomas said nationwide injunctions, in his words, “take a toll on the federal court system — preventing legal questions from percolating… [and] encouraging forum shopping, and making every case a national emergency for the courts and…the Executive Branch.”

It’s remarkable to think a Supreme Court justice has to convince four of their colleagues to uphold a nationwide injunction, but a single district court judge can issue one, effectively preventing the duly elected President of the United States from fulfilling what he believes is a constitutional duty.

This obstruction at the district level is unprecedented. Studies show that there’s not a single example of a nationwide injunction in the first 175 years of our nation’s history.

Although we received some good news last night that the Ninth Circuit stayed an injunction to allow our administration to continue our “remain in Mexico” policy, addressing the crisis at our southern border, the truth is, our administration has been unfairly hit with more nationwide injunctions than the first 40 American presidents combined.

Nationwide injunctions issued by federal judges prevent the Executive Branch from acting, compromising our national security by obstructing the lawful ability of the President to stop threats to the homeland, where he sees them.

These injunctions undermine the rule of law and the separation of powers that are central to our nation’s founding, that lie at the very heart of our Constitution.

And so I say to all those gathered here, for the sake of our liberty, our security, our prosperity, and the separation of powers: This era of judicial activism must come to an end. (Applause.)

The Supreme Court of the United States must clarify that district judges can decide no more than the cases before them. And it’s imperative that we restore the historic tradition that district judges do not set policy for the whole nation.

In the days ahead, our administration will seek opportunities to put this very question before the Supreme Court to ensure that decisions affecting every American are made either by those elected to represent the American people or by the highest court in the land. (Applause.)

So thank you again for allowing me to join you here today in this remarkable time in the life of our nation. And thank you for the role that all the members of the Federalist Society have played in the progress that we’re making — the progress we’re making in this economy, the progress we’re making in our courts, and the progress that we’re making as we rebuild our military and make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still.

And the truth of the matter is, we’re advancing an agenda of freedom for the American people. And the Federalist Society has played a critical role in advancing that agenda.

But just know we’re just getting started. We’re going to continue to lean on each and every one of you, guided by your example and as you are guided by the wisdom of our Founders to continue, to make this country great and strong and prosperous as it was always intended to be.

But we can’t keep winning if we don’t keep fighting. But the truth is, we live in a time when freedom itself, in so many ways, is under assault.

Today, leading liberals mock the First Amendment freedoms of millions of Americans across the country. They reject the right to life, many arguing for late-term abortion and even some defending infanticide.

Under the guise of what’s known as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, liberals are fighting for more regulation and government control of our daily lives. And increasingly, every day, we see Democrats at the national level and around the country advocate a failed economic system that impoverished hundreds of millions around the world and robbed the liberty of generations.

I truly do believe that the choice before us has never been clearer and the stakes have never been higher. It really is a choice between government coercion and control and a socialist vision for America, and freedom and free markets and the principles of limited government.

It’s really a choice between freedom and socialism.

And it’s important that the leaders gathered here, as you return to your homes, return to your practices and your work — you help tell the story not just of what we’ve accomplished, but of the choice our country faces in the days ahead, and that you do what Federalist Society members have always done, and that is talk about the principles that have made this country great.

You know, it was freedom, not socialism, that gave us the most prosperous economy in the history of the world.

It was freedom, not socialism, that ended slavery, won two world wars, and stands today as a beacon of hope for all the world.

It was freedom, not socialism, that’s moving us beyond the prejudices of the past to create a more perfect union and extend the blessings of liberty to every American, regardless of race or creed or color.

And it was freedom, not socialism, that gave us the highest quality of life, the cleanest environment on Earth, and improved the health and wellbeing of millions around the world.

You know, what Medicare for All really means is quality healthcare for none. (Laughter.) And the only thing green about the Green New Deal is how much green it’s going to cost all of us if they ever sign it into law. (Laughter.)

Margaret Thatcher probably said it best: “The trouble with Socialism is [you] eventually run out of other people’s money.” (Laughter.)

You know, I say to you from my heart: The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment America ceases to be America. And so, as President Trump said in his State of the Union Address, so we must say from this day and every day forward: “America will never be a socialist country.” (Applause.)

Well, this is our charge; this is our challenge: to reject the Left’s plans for more government and more government control, and continue fighting — continue fighting for the agenda that President Trump brought to the White House, that Republican majorities have stood shoulder to shoulder with him on, and all of you have stood in partnership with us: a pro-growth, pro-freedom agenda.

And we know it won’t be easy. But Thomas Paine wrote, eloquently, and I quote, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” And then he went on to say these words that I find myself reflecting on often. Thomas Paine said, “Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

And I want to promise you President Trump and I are ready for the fight. (Applause.) And we’re ready to stand with you, to stand and fight for freedom. We’ll fight alongside the Federalist Society to keep on building, keep on growing, and keep on strengthening America.

We can’t do it alone. So, as I said, I want you to do your part. Talk to your colleagues and your friends — not just Federalist Society lawyers, but all your colleagues. Talk to your clients — people leading businesses large and small — about how far we have come as a country in just two and half short years and how far we can go if we continue to strengthen the foundation underneath this nation with courts that are committed to a strict constructionist philosophy and fealty to the Constitution.

Tell them that this President and this administration are fighting for all of the liberties they hold dear.

And, in a word, do just like those words on the Liberty Bell say. I was very moved, Leonard, when you mentioned my visit to the Liberty Bell because it was already in the speech. (Laughter.) I’ll never forget, I walked up to that Liberty Bell in Philadelphia when I was at that Federalist Society then. And I did look for those ancient words that were inscribed around it. It’s where the Liberty Bell gets its name. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land [and] unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

That was a charge to early Americans, and it’s a charge for each and every one of us. President Reagan said, memorably, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” So we got to go tell the story.

It’s not going to be enough for us just to win the next election; we have to win the next generation. (Applause.) And we win it by explaining the principles of our nation’s founding, explaining the genius of our Founders, and letting this generation know that those ideals all still work and they’re witnessing them being put into practice again in our courts, in our economy, and our nation.

But it’s been great to be with all of you today. I know you’ve had a long day, and I appreciate the invitation to join you.

But I want to tell you, looking out at all of you, I leave here today with renewed confidence that with your continued support, with President Donald Trump in the White House, with conservatives in our courts at every level all across this nation, with the support of the American people behind the ideals that we hold dear, and with God’s help, we will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. We will strengthen the foundations upon which this nation was built as never before.

And to borrow a phrase — (laughter) — we will make America great again.

Thanks everybody. (Applause.) God bless you all. And God bless America.

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