I don’t like to parrot the conventional wisdom, and I’m also afraid we might all be defining deviancy down, but it did seem that President Trump had a very good evening, both with his relatively bland, not-really-very obnoxious or self-obsessed performance at the classy rollout event for his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Scalia vacancy on Supreme Court and with the choice itself.
Gorsuch looked good, sounded good, has impeccable academic credentials (degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Columbia), clerkships with two respected Supreme Court justices, and so far as I have yet heard has conducted himself with dignity and class during his career so far. One of his mentors, Justice Anthony Kennedy, is the most moderate of the current Republican justices.
Yes, Gorsuch apparently is a solid conservative, although he apparently has never written on the key issues surrounding abortion. He is described as Scalia-like in his originalist attitude toward the Constitution.
I’m not an originalist, and I don’t think that’s what the country needs. But those old arguments won’t keep Gorsuch off the court, and will probably generally turn into mostly conservative policy outcomes. (Although a hardheaded originalist, like Scalia, sometimes ended up voting with the liberals for originalist reasons.)
Nominee is 49 years old
Time will tell. And, speaking of time, Gorsuch is 49 years old, and could very well be on the court for many decades. (The current record for length of tenure is liberal lion Justice William O. Douglas with 39 years.)
As I said in my piece Tuesday morning, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to fight against any nominee who is “outside the mainstream.” Schumerites may decide that description fits Gorsuch (conservatives say that to Schumer, all forms of conservative look “outside the mainstream.”) Other Dems will mount a filibuster just to protest what the Repubs did to Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination. I totally get that and wouldn’t blame them a bit. But they will need almost every Dem to mount enough of a filibuster to force the Repubs to attempt the “nuclear option.” And they will need help from at least a few Repubs to exercise the nuclear-defense strategy. (If you don’t understand those terms, they’re explained in Tuesday’s piece.)
So the thing about Gorsuch’s apparently unassailable credentials and judicial demeanor and Boy Scout biography is that it becomes hard to pick up wavering senators, from either party, for either of those votes.
I don’t expect the Dems to throw in the towel right away. But I seriously doubt their chances of blocking this nomination. On the other hand, as we learned on Election Night, just because you think you know how something’s gonna turn out doesn’t mean it will turn out that way. I’ve just expressed a few guesses, but I’m very down on pollsters and experts and stargazers who think they can see the future. I know I can’t. If you think you know what happens next, feel free to let me know in the comment thread below.
Sen. Franken’s response
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, which will deal with the nomination before it reaches the Senate floor, released this statement on the nomination:
Long before his election, President Trump promised to appoint a Supreme Court justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia, who held a deeply conservative view of the Constitution and the Court. In the coming weeks, I will be closely examining Neil Gorsuch’s background, but I have serious concerns about his judicial philosophy—especially on issues like access to justice, corporate accountability, workers’ rights, and women’s health. I was hopeful that the President would have selected someone like Merrick Garland, a consensus candidate lauded by the same Republicans who ultimately refused to hold a hearing on him for nearly a year.
Minnesota’s senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, also serves on Judiciary. On Wednesday, she released this statement:
Senators have a solemn obligation to advise and consent on a President’s nominee for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court makes decisions that affect the lives of people across the country. We need to thoroughly examine Judge Gorsuch, his respect for precedent, and his views on issues that matter to the American people. I have concerns about his views and record on issues including those involving separation of powers, campaign finance, and consumer protection. This nominee deserves serious scrutiny. And to be clear, there is a 60 vote threshold for this nominee to be confirmed, it’s not 51 like the other nominees that are before us now.