WASHINGTON — President Trump’s Supreme Court pick was met with jubilation on the right side of the aisle, and mixed reaction on the left including some clear calls for payback.
“I encourage my Senate colleagues to give Neil Gorsuch the same courtesy Senate Republicans gave Merrick Garland,” tweeted Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
After gathering GOP senators, his sons Eric and Donald Jr., and advisers into the East Room of the White House for the primetime announcement, Trump declared he had fulfilled his campaign promise to “find the very best judge in the country” to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Tenth Circuit appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump said, is “someone who respects our laws and is representative of our Constitution and who loves our Constitution and someone who will interpret them as written.”
Asking Gorsuch and his wife, Louise, to come out, Trump asked, “So was that a surprise? Was it?”
“When he was nominated to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, he was confirmed by the Senate unanimously. Also — that’s unanimous, can you believe that? Nowadays, with what’s going on?” the president added. “Does that happen anymore? Does it happen? I think it’s going to happen. Maybe it will.”
Gorsuch, 49, said he looked forward to “speaking with members from both side of the aisle, to answering their questions and to hearing their concerns.”
“I consider the United States Senate the greatest deliberative body in the world, and I respect the important role the Constitution affords it in the confirmation of our judges,” the judge said. “I respect, too, the fact that in our legal order it is for Congress and not the courts to write new laws. It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands.”
President Obama repeatedly described his pick of Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as “mainstream” and therefore worthy of quick bipartisan agreement, and Republicans quickly began using the adjective to describe Gorsuch.
“By all accounts, the president has nominated a mainstream and faithful constitutionalist to serve on the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.).
“He is a judge’s judge, who is well within the mainstream and always decides cases based on what the law says,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has argued cases before Gorsuch. “He also always treats the parties appearing before him with dignity and respect.”
“The president has picked a mainstream nominee unanimously supported by Democrats in the past,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “I hope my colleagues across the aisle will allow an up-or-down vote on this bipartisan, highly qualified nominee.”
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were among others who released statements describing Gorsuch as mainstream.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), though, said “the burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans.”
“Given his record, I have very serious doubts about Judge Gorsuch’s ability to meet this standard. Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent justice on the court,” Schumer added. “Make no mistake, Senate Democrats will not simply allow but require an exhaustive, robust, and comprehensive debate on Judge Gorsuch’s fitness to be a Supreme Court Justice.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called Gorsuch “a jurist with a troubling history outside the mainstream.”
If Democrats filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination, Republicans have threatened to deploy the “nuclear option” last used by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in 2013 to push through federal court nominees. That would enable Supreme Court justices to be confirmed with a simple majority instead of needing to clear the 60-vote cloture threshold.
If some Dems sway in Gorsuch’s favor, that explosive tactic would be shelved for another fight.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) made clear that he at least wants a vote. “Senators have a constitutional obligation to advise and consent on a nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy and, simply put, we have a responsibility to do our jobs as elected officials,” he said. “Just as I did when Merrick Garland was nominated, I look forward to evaluating Judge Neil Gorsuch’s qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court.”
“…Just as I have all along, I urge my colleagues to put partisan politics aside and allow the vetting process to proceed.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he intended to “dig deeply into Judge Gorsuch’s judicial and public record” to ensure he doesn’t fit into the “extremist mold” of Scalia.
Cardin added that Senate Republicans’ “reckless course of action” in not allowing hearings or a vote on Garland “inflicted lasting damage on the Supreme Court and the independence of the federal judiciary while diminishing the powers and duties of the Senate.”
“For these reasons, it is important that the next justice be mainstream in his legal views so that the judicial branch of our government can serve as an independent check on the president and Congress in our constitutional system of government,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged Dems to reach a bit further back in history before thinking about Garland retribution.
“I hope members of the Senate will again show [Gorsuch] fair consideration and respect the result of the recent election with an up-or-down vote on his nomination, just like the Senate treated the four first-term nominees of Presidents Clinton and Obama,” McConnell said.