Trump Nominates Gorsuch, Democrats Weigh Cost of Resistance

By Sam Tarr

Originally Published in The Massasoit Tribune 2017

From the White House East Room Neil Gorsuch referred to the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a “lion of the law.” Gorsuch was speaking from a podium at an announcement ceremony, where President Donald Trump revealed that he was his nominee to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. A seat vacant since Scalia died, last year.  

Trump touted Gorsuch’s “outstanding legal skills,” his “brilliant mind,” and “tremendous discipline.” The remarks delivered at a primetime event which interrupted regularly scheduled programming across the major networks, Tuesday evening.

Gorsuch, a Denver federal appeals court judge, was likely to face resistance from Democratic lawmakers, regardless of résumé. Trump’s aggressive executive actions this week, are certainly not going to make that situation any easier for his Supreme Court Nominee.

Earlier this week Trump fired acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, for refusing to defend the travel ban executive order.

Then on Saturday morning the President launched into a twitter tirade, aimed at the federal judge, James Robart, who blocked that executive order.

“The opinion of this so-called judge,” Trump said via twitter, “which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

The attack was not the first on a sitting federal judge. During the campaign, he said that Gonzalo Curiel, was unfit to hear the Trump University case because he was “of Mexican heritage.” The attacks are emerging as a disturbing pattern, not going unnoticed by Democratic leadership.

“The President’s attack on Judge James Robart,” Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “shows a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn’t always bend to his wishes and a continued lack of respect for the Constitution.”

 A disdain and lack of respect that Schumer argues brings even greater importance to the need for the Supreme Court to act as an “independent check on the administration.”

“With each action testing the Constitution, each personal attack on a judge, President Trump raises the bar even higher for Judge Gorsuch’s nomination,” Schumer added.

Barack Obama had already nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat last year. Even though Obama had an entire year left in his Presidency, Republicans refused to give Garland a hearing.

Last year’s Republican block and these latest incidents, are sure to heat up what was already going to be a very contentious nomination process. Immediately after the reveal, Democrats were digging in against Trump’s pick.

“The Democrats,” former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer said via twitter, “should treat Trump’s SCOTUS pick with the exact same courtesy the GOP showed Merrick Garland.”

“This Supreme Court seat was stolen from the Obama administration,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, said on Wednesday. Merkley, has emerged as a leader in the efforts to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation, which he feels would “undermine the integrity of the court.”

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, pointed out what he feels is hypocrisy from the Democratic Senator. Merkley was out front in support of changing Senate filibuster rules four years ago.

“When Democrats were in the majority, Sen. Merkley wanted to end filibusters,” Stewart said. “I guess he only meant when Democrats are in the majority and in control of the White House.”

A comparison and argument that will likely fall on deaf ears. Though Democrats will continue to reap what they have sewn during the Obama years, the bitterness left over from the Republican block of Merrick Garland, has given Democratic resistance renewed vigor. That being said, the GOP seems confident that Gorsuch will be approved.

“Rest assured, we will work with the Senate leadership to ensure that Judge Gorsuch gets an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, one way or the other,” Vice President Pence said.

“The other” most likely meaning the so-called “nuclear option.” If Republicans are unable to get the votes needed to confirm Gorsuch, Republicans in the Senate have a majority needed to change procedural rules. If enacted, Gorsuch would then only need a simple majority to go through.

President Trump, when asked about potential gridlock, issued support for the “nuclear option.”

Many Senate Democrats seem willing to take the fight to the new administration, including MA Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“President Trump had the chance to select a consensus nominee to the Supreme Court. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, he failed that test,” said Warren declaring her opposition to Gorsuch’s nomination.

Some Democrats, weighing the political fallout, are hedging their bets on this one.

West Virginia Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has said that will not support any effort to filibuster. Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, said Gorsuch deserves the hearing and vote denied to Merrick Garland. Coons arguing that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Charles C.W. Cooke, conservative editor of The National Review Online, made the argument for Democratic support of Gorsuch.

“From his available writings we can see that Gorsuch is a federalist, that he is mistrustful of executive power,” Cook wrote. “He is, in other words, perfectly placed to help the #resistance.”

Referring to progressive pushback as “hostility” and “nonsense,” Cooke argued that Gorsuch was better suited to stand up to Trump, than Merrick Garland. Garland, Cooke argues, is a “friend of the government,” and “champion of executive power.”

Liberals did have reservations about the nomination of Merrick Garland. Many on the left, were hoping Obama would nominate someone more progressive. It was an attempted compromise made by the outgoing administration that clearly has not been reciprocated by Trump.

Neil Gorsuch is viewed as deeply conservative by many, and has ruled in line with social conservatives enough to have progressives deeply concerned. Gorsuch has ruled against capital punishment defendants seeking relief from their sentences, and on the side of public institutions displaying monuments of the Ten Commandments.

Perhaps most notable he sided with Hobby Lobby, in a 2013 decision in support of “religious freedom” claims. The arts and crafts company was challenging a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring businesses to provide contraceptive coverage for employees. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump was also very clear on the campaign trail, that he would appoint a Justice who would reverse Roe V. Wade. Gorsuch is only 49 years old, and would be just the first of possible multiple Supreme Court appointees in this administration. The decisions of which could have a generation’s-long impact.

His conservative background and the controversial nature of his nomination has led many to push Democrats into opposition. Many view him as out of the “mainstream.” If that’s the case Chuck Schumer vowed to fight “tooth and nail” in opposition.

Some Democrats are still weighing the political costs of such a fight. Many others are seeing the thousands of people filling the streets and flooding the phone lines, sending a message demanding action and opposition.

The level of resistance to Trump’s SCOTUS pick will go a long way in determining if that message is being heard.

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