The rules change means nominees will need only a bare majority of votes to reach the high court, instead of the 60 required for cloture, or limiting the endless debate known as a filibuster.
The Senate’s rules revision, enacted through what many call the “nuclear option,” sets Gorsuch up for confirmation Friday. All 52 Senate Republicans will vote for the Colorado native, as will a handful of Democrats. The GOP lawmakers changed the rules following an earlier vote Thursday, in which 44 Democrats maintained their anti-Gorsuch filibuster.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) noted that millions of “dark” dollars had been raised to buttress the nomination of Gorsuch, without names attached. “They obviously think you will be worth their money,” Whitehouse said bluntly.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) began the confirmation hearing of Judge Neil Gorsuch by emphasizing her disappointment that President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, was denied a hearing. She went on to explain that Gorsuch is no “reasonable mainstream conservative,” but rather a deeply disconcerting “originalist.” But that isn’t the only worry Democrats should have about him.
A potentially crucial week in Congress begins with James Comey’s testimony in the House on Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings in the Senate.
There are many issues to consider in confirming the next Justice, but the issue of gun safety alone makes the stakes of this confirmation too high to ignore: the impact of decisions in major future gun cases will be measured in lives.
An imperiled president says the state of the union demands radical change and asks the help of a supine Congress, while an imperiled administrative state seeks to protect constitutional government with the help of a burgeoning civil society protest movement and unknown allies in the FBI and CIA.
Few would have predicted Donald Trump’s stellar relationship with far-right Christians. But now that he’s won them over, benefited from their political support, and amassed a White House featuring many evangelical conservatives, LGBT protections, abortion rights, and public school funding are on the line.
Besides the open Supreme Court seat that Republicans refused to act on during Obama’s last year in office, there are currently 112 vacancies across the federal bench. Obama made 54 nominations to those seats that Republicans refused to confirm, including several dozen where they never held a final vote. In short, the GOP mounted a judicial coup.
Legal experts said the Trump administration statements could undermine respect for the constitutional division of powers. Cornell University law professor Jens David Ohlin said that accusing the judiciary of usurping the president’s powers demonstrated “an absurd lack of appreciation for the separation of powers.”
Gorsuch’s remarks describing Trump’s attacks on the judiciary as “demoralizing” and “disheartening” were first disclosed on Wednesday by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist hired by the White House to guide Gorsuch’s nomination through the U.S. Senate, also said that the judge had made the comments to Blumenthal.
“If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself…something to repair tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is – living not for oneself, but for one’s community,” said Ginsburg, who is only the second woman ever to be appointed as a justice of the country’s highest court.
Democrats have expressed worry that Gorsuch could act as a rubber stamp for the Republican president’s policies on a nine-seat Supreme Court poised to revert to a conservative majority. With four liberals and four conservatives now on the court, Gorsuch’s confirmation would restore the conservative majority that had existed for decades until the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia.
In a series of tweets that broadened his attack on the country’s judiciary, Trump said Americans should blame U.S. District Judge James Robart and the court system if anything happened. He added that he had told the Department of Homeland Security to “check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!”
Any appeals of decisions by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart in Seattle face a regional court dominated by liberal-leaning judges who might not be sympathetic to Trump’s rationale for the ban, and a currently shorthanded Supreme Court split 4-4 between liberals and conservatives.
Can Democrats, who are more philosophically invested in showing that government can function, really bring themselves to replicate McConnell’s obstructionist methods? If Chuck Schumer and his Senate Democrats choose a path of obstructing President Trump’s agenda, they will have learned from the best.
A Trump court could conceivably outlaw abortion altogether, which would take us into new political (and medical) terrain. You doubt that would happen? Let’s hope you’re right. But the tides of ultraconservative authoritarianism are rising, and those high waters will change the landscape, especially for women.
Republicans have spent decades weaponizing the Supreme Court as a political tool and are on the brink of a payoff that Trump’s creditors never could have imagined. But they also did something dangerous: They proved there is no price for creative obstruction. Democrats need to understand they have the people on their side. And to keep them there, they have to be willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous obstruction. Our democracy depends on it.
Gorsuch, unfortunately, must be sacrificed on the altar of obscene partisanship erected by the Republicans in recent years. Temper tantrums designed to undermine the Constitution for naked political purposes cannot be rewarded. Our government cannot survive the short-term games-playing that has replaced fidelity to the intent of the founders’ work in forming this once-great nation.
The Senate should have seated Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and then turned to Trump’s nominees as vacancies occurred. Never forget that Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have stolen an open seat that would have tilted the court’s balance away from a right-wing majority.
Judge Gorsuch, despite a reportedly mild-mannered temperament, is known for his anti-choice and anti-LGBT stances, pro-employer rulings in labor disputes, anti-regulatory attitudes, dismissal of scientific expertise, and pro-police bias in brutality cases, according to statements from public interest groups issued after the announcement.
As a new appointee, Gorsuch would expand the court’s conservative wing, made up of John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Kennedy long has been considered the court’s pivotal vote, sometimes siding with the liberals in key cases such as the June 2016 ruling striking down abortion restrictions in Texas.