Many political analysts believe that the appointment of the Supreme Court justice to replace Associate Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away on February 13, 2016 is one of the most important actions of President Donald Trump’s administration. After all, since Scalia’s passing, the Supreme Court has been operating with only eight justices for close to a year. The election of a Republican president more or else confirmed that the conservative voice of the late justice would be replaced by a successor who also espoused a conservative ideology.
On Tuesday January 31, President Trump announced his selection, Neil Gorsuch, a judge from the 10th Circuit of Appeals, located in Denver, Colorado. Gorsuch, 49, who was on President Trump’s original short list of 21 potential justices to replace Justice Scalia will be the youngest Supreme Court nominee since 1991 when President George Herbert Walker Bush nominated Clarence Thomas who was 43 at the time. If confirmed, Gorsuch could conceivably hold this lifetime appointment for forty years.
Gorsuch holds a B.A. from Columbia University, a J.D. from Harvard University Law School and a Doctor of Philosophy in Jurisprudence from Oxford University. Gorsuch attended Harvard Law School at the same time as President Barack Obama. Gorsuch, who was appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in 2006, also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and former Supreme Court Justice Byron White. Gorsuch’s late mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served as the first female administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan.
Conservatives are very enthusiastic about the nomination of Gorsuch who has been described as being cut from the same cloth as Justice Scalia in that he too is also an “originalist” and a “textualist”. That is to say, like Scalia, Gorsuch believes that the Constitution was a finite document that cannot be reinterpreted or rewritten at whim. In nominating Gorsuch, President Trump lived up to his campaign promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who shared Scalia’s “originalist” perspective. “When Justice Scalia passed away suddenly last February, I made a promise to the American people:
If I were elected president, I would find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court. I promised to select someone who respects our laws and is representative of our Constitution and who loves our Constitution and someone who will interpret them as written,
Trump said in his introductory remarks proceeding the Gorsuch nomination announcement.
Under ordinary circumstances, Neil Gorsuch would be easily confirmed especially since he was unanimously confirmed for the 10th Circuit Court in 2006. However, Gorsuch is facing Senate Democrats who are upset that President Obama’s candidate to replace Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland, did not receive a Senate hearing last March when President Obama first nominated him. This perception that the vacant Scalia Supreme Court seat was “stolen” is still held by many liberals. However, the majority of Americans surveyed last spring believed that the next president, not President Obama, should appoint the replacement for Justice Scalia. At the time Judge Garland was nominated, we were still in the presidential primary.
Gorsuch is also unpopular with Democrats because he has taken the side of the religious institutions in the cases against the Affordable Care Act most notably Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores where he advocated for the U.S. Courts to provide greater flexibility for the religious beliefs of individuals.
It is not for secular courts to rewrite the religious complaint of a faithful adherent, or to decide whether a religious teaching about complicity imposes “too much” moral disapproval on those only “indirectly” assisting wrongful conduct,
Gorsuch wrote about the Hobby Lobby case. Gorsuch has also written against euthanasia in his 2006 book,” The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who has been making a practice of slow walking President Trump’s Cabinet nominees’ confirmation process has already communicated that Gorsuch will face a rigorous confirmation. Schumer made the following comments in a published statement:
The burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the Executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans. Given his record, I have very serious doubts about Judge Gorsuch’s ability to meet this standard. Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice on the Court.
Senator Jeffrey Merkley (D-Oregon) has started lobbying his fellow senators to engage in a filibuster effort against Gorsuch. “The most fundamental thing that must be understood about tonight’s announcement is that this is a stolen seat,” he said when Gorsuch was nominated. “This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee, and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court,” he added.
A filibuster would require 60 votes which is difficult to obtain given that Republicans control the Senate 52-48. The last time a filibuster was launched was the unsuccessful effort against George W. Bush’s nominee Samuel Alito in 2006. While 24 out of 44 Democrats participated in the filibuster, Alito was ultimately confirmed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the idea that Gorsuch’s confirmation will be challenged. “The Democrats seem to want to fight over everything these days, but this is a fight worth having,” the Majority Leader said in an interview with Fox News’s Bret Baier “We’ve got a great nominee and we intend to win”.
That being said President Trump has already stated that Senate Majority Leader McConnell should “go nuclear” or apply the simple majority vote established by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid if the Democrats put up any substantial opposition to the Gorsuch nomination.
Image: Screen Grab; CBS News; http://www.onenewspage.com/video/20170201/6716108/Supreme-Court-Nominee-Neil-Gorsuch.htm