Simultaneously criticizing the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review while criticizing cases where it declined to strike down laws regulating economic and health insurance matters, was a sign of an “internally contradictory” and “ignorant” philosophy, Mr. Tribe said. Because the attorney general oversees decisions about which laws the Justice Department will defend and can decide which not to enforce, he said, Mr. Whitaker’s views likely would have faced sharp scrutiny even from Republicans in a confirmation hearing.
“He seems to think much of the fabric of federal law that is part of our ordinary lives violates the Constitution of the United States to which he is evidently going to take an oath,” Mr. Tribe said.
In the 2014 interview, Mr. Whitaker also expressed a range of other conservative views.
He is likely to hold fast to Mr. Sessions’s position in a lawsuit brought by Republican-controlled states seeking to have the Affordable Care Act’s insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions struck down. Under Mr. Sessions, the department sided with the plaintiffs instead of fighting to keep the law intact. Mr. Whitaker’s 2014 views on the insurance law suggest he will be unlikely to change that position.
“We need to do everything we can to repeal it, defund it, delay it — we need to do whatever it takes,” Mr. Whitaker said of the Affordable Care Act. “It’s having an incredibly negative impact on our economy. What can we do? We need to get a majority in the House and Senate and we need to get this president to change his mind. We need the people to agree with us that it’s such a negative, long-term impact on our economy and it has to be undone.”
He also signaled opposition to abortion rights, saying that he thinks “life begins at conception,” and to same-sex marriage rights, saying that “it’s traditionally been up to the churches and to God to define that.” He expressed frustration that Iowa’s legislature had not pushed back against a state Supreme Court ruling in 2009 that permitted same-sex couples in Iowa to marry.
“Here in the state of Iowa, we can’t even get our elected officials to do anything about it and that’s really frustrating,” he said. “It’s affecting our military. There are chaplains in the military under a lot of pressure to go against their religious beliefs.”
Mr. Whitaker voiced a hard line on immigration, saying he did not believe in “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants who are already inside the country — he did not address the so-called Dreamers, or people brought to the United States as children — and talked about visiting the southwestern border while he was the United States attorney for the Southern District of Iowa during the second term of the Bush administration.