Why you should care
Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court is a thoughtful conservative — and Dems are already poised for battle.
It was a study in opposites: The braggadocious president introduced his latest nominee as “the very best judge in the country.” The nominee himself was humble and gracious, professing to be “acutely aware of my own imperfections.”
Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court will reassure conservatives fretting over the fate of the rule of law in the United States. The 49-year-old is regarded by people (even some Democrats) as thoughtful, intellectual and consistent. Much in the vein of Antonin Scalia, the late justice he’ll replace, Gorsuch is an originalist, trying to be faithful to the Constitution as it was written. “I think he’s not going to be results-oriented conservative,” says Curt Levey, an attorney with conservative groups FreedomWorks and the Committee for Justice. “He’ll be following the law wherever it leads.” On the other hand, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that he is “skeptical that [Gorsuch] can be a strong, independent justice.” He also called him hostile to women’s rights and sweet on corporations.
Here’s what else you need to know:
They start with what Elena Kagan called a “vapid and hollow charade,” and Joe Biden described as a “Kabuki dance”: hearings by the 20-member Senate Judiciary Committee. Doesn’t matter if the committee endorses the nominee — all Supreme Court nominations go to the Senate for a vote. With 52 Republicans, the Senate is poised to confirm Gorsuch by the requisite simple majority.
Dems aren’t powerless
But they are in a tough bind. They could choose to filibuster — Republicans lack the requisite 60 votes to overcome it — but that could unleash Republican threats of the nuclear option (remember that?): Again by a simple majority, the Senate could vote to change the rules to disallow filibusters and ruin them for everyone.
Besides, argues Levey, it’s worth remembering that justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg could well retire in the next four years, giving Trump two more chances to nominate justices. Levey argues that Dems should hold their fire: “If they had any sense, they’d save it for Kennedy and Ginsburg retiring,” he says. “The worst that can happen is that we’re back to a year ago” — when Scalia was alive. Back then, the Court had four reliably liberal votes, four reliably conservative votes and one that tilted right (Kennedy).
Speaking of Kennedy …
Fun fact! Gorsuch clerked for Justice Kennedy back in the day, and this will reportedly be the first time that a former Supreme Court clerk sits on the bench alongside his former boss.
The Irony of Ayotte
Last year, former senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) helped block Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, arguing that the Senate should wait for a new president. Ayotte’s rival, Maggie Hassan, used the fact as a bludgeon in a fierce November election and won Ayotte’s seat. Ayotte, by the way, also said some harsh things about now-President Trump.
Now she’s back — chosen by the White House to guide the nominee through the Senate, where, according to The Washington Post, “she could use her personal relationships with centrist senators to attract Republican support.” What was her undoing could now be her political rebirth.
Except, er, we still remember Chris Christie.