This week President Trump kept his bigly promise to deliver a solid conservative nominee for the Supreme Court, and for once gave Republicans exactly what they hoped for in Neil Gorsuch. If confirmed, 49 year old Gorsuch will restore the balance of the Supreme Court to where it was before Justice Antonin Scalia died. Like Scalia, Gorsuch believes the constitution should be interpreted in the original meaning, and he’s a conservative, so expect a conservative’s view on hot issues like gun, abortion and LGBTQ rights. He’s also intelligent and eloquent (seemingly in short supply these days?) and a persuasive writer who can make the most unpalatable position seem convincing – and he’s highly respected by his colleagues on both the left and the right. In short, he’s an extremely difficult nominee for Democrats to oppose.
So why would the Democrats want to oppose him, you ask? Well some view Gorsuch as sitting in a “stolen” seat – there was that one time where Republicans refused to even consider President Obama’s much more liberal nominee Merrick Garland. They blocked that hearing for nearly a year in the (rewarded) hope that a Republican might appoint Scalia’s successor. A conservative Supreme Court has been on the top of the Republican wish list since they started campaigning, and were willing to ignore basic constitutional norms in order to make that happen. Hence, unhappy Dems. This is a slightly unrealistic view however, there is no guarantee that even with a hearing, Garland would have been confirmed – after all the Senate was still controlled by Republicans then.
So will they block Gorsuch’s nomination, you ask? Well they can try to filibuster, but they’re caught between an angry liberal base rock and a nuclear hard place. Lesson one for the Democrats during a Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress: pick your battles. If you have no game plan, then the game plan is not to do anything rash. Go through the motions of a hearing, ask some tough questions and vote on the merits of the nominee. Playing politics now and forcing the Republicans to go nuclear and kill the filibuster option altogether could mean a swift confirmation for Gorsuch now, and a swift confirmation for at least two other (even more conservative) justices over the next 4-8 years, swinging the whole court to the right – and Liberals would lose the court for generations. So from this angle it seems overwhelmingly likely that Gorsuch will soon reign supreme.
Feel that justice is served? Movie for your defensible mood: Amistad