Trump Picks Gorsuch for Supreme Court, Democrats Promise Filibuster

  • 1 February 2017
  • NormanL

President Trump's Supreme Court nominee is...Judge Neil Gorsuch.  He is a native westerner, who grew up in Colorado and is currently a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

He was appointed to the 10th Circuit by President Bush on July 20, 2006 -- and was confirmed unanimously. Eleven current Democrat Senators—including Minority Leader Schumer, Sen. Leahy, and Sen. Feinstein—and 20 current Republican Senators were in office when Judge Gorsuch was confirmed by voice vote, without opposition.

Gorsuch was given a “unanimously well qualified rating” by the American Bar Association -- a key point that senators look to when vetting judges for the federal bench.

Prior to that appointment, Gorsuch was an associate and partner at the law firm of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, PLLC from 1995 to 2005 before being named Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General in 2005. In that post, Gorsuch oversaw the Justice Department's work in areas such as constitutional law, counterterrorism, environmental regulation, and civil rights.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Gorsuch clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, as well as DC Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle.

The White House says it reached out to the Senate to understand what they preferred in a Supreme Court nominee, and, in its view,  Judge Gorsuch is "precisely the type of Judge that Senators from both parties have said they want: A judge who will follow the law as it is written, regardless of the outcome, and who will respect the Constitution."

The American Conservative Union has given its seal of approval to Gorsuch. In a press release, the American Conservative Union said Gorsuch is a "self-described originalist who seeks to interpret the Constitution as the Founders intended, Judge Gorsuch’s opinions have often reflected a commitment to religious freedom and the Rule of Law."

ACU chairman Matt Schlapp said,“Donald Trump looked conservatives in the eye and made a solemn promise to select a Supreme Court nominee who would make Justice Scalia proud.” 

“Conservatives should thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who led the way in the Senate to keep this seat from being filled," Schlapp said. "He deserves the assist and Donald Trump gets the goal.  Now it is time for all of us to link arms and fight."

A fight is exactly what Republicans and conservatives will get. 

In a Facebook post, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said "President Trump had the chance to select a consensus nominee to the Supreme Court. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, he failed that test."

Warren criticized Gorsuch for being a tool of "powerful interests" and is their reward for "spen[ding] millions" keeping a seat on the high court open.

The New York Times editorial board, which is often an indicator of Senate Democratic sentiment, wrote that Gorsuch represents "Trump’s failure to choose a more moderate candidate is the latest example of his refusal to acknowledge his historic unpopularity and his nearly three-million-vote loss to Hillary Clinton."

The editors also, however, note that Gorsuch is, indeed, a Scalia-type conservative:

Like Justice Scalia, he is an originalist, meaning he interprets the Constitution’s language to mean what it was understood to mean when it was written — an approach that has led both men to consistently conservative results.

Judge Gorsuch’s similarities to Justice Scalia extend into several areas of the law. Since his appointment in 2006, by President George W. Bush, he has voted consistently in favor of religious-liberty claims, such as requests for exemptions for private companies and religious nonprofits that oppose the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

He is even more conservative than Justice Scalia in at least one area — calling for an end to the deference courts traditionally show to administrative agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, that are charged with implementing complex and important federal laws.

Democrats have also promised to filibuster the nomination. But that has raised the possibility Republicans could use the so-called "nuclear option" to rewrite Senate rules, doing away with the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, and allowing a simple majority vote to decide the nomination.

Gorsuch has other assets that may have made him the President's top choice. National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru speculated that Gorsuch, while a judge strongly in the mold of Scalia, could also influence the Court's leading swing vote -- Anthony Kennedy:

Gorsuch’s tie to Justice Kennedy, frequently a swing vote on the Supreme Court, may also be an asset. If Gorsuch can persuade Kennedy to join an opinion, a narrow loss for the conservative position could become a narrow win. There is also the possibility that Gorsuch’s presence would reassure Kennedy about the direction of the Court and make him more willing to let Trump name his own replacement.

The protests against Gorsuch have already begun. But these early forays against him are just the slightest taste of what is to come. Republicans Senators, and conservative activists, will face their biggest test yet in the Gorsuch nomination fight, and need to be prepared for what is sure to be a rough, ugly, and very personal confirmation hearing.