Donald Trump named his U.S. Supreme Court pick on Tuesday, the same day that a dozen Democrats refused to show up for a committee vote on two of the president’s Cabinet nominees. The boycott was instructive. If this is the Democratic game plan for a couple of routine executive branch choices, imagine what’s in store for the new president’s high court selection.
That said, Neal Gorsuch is eminently qualified and accomplished. He has been on the federal bench since 2006 following his appointment by George. W. Bush and his unanimous approval by the U.S. Senate. He previously clerked for two U.S. Supreme Court justices.
On matters of the law, the Wall Street Journal described Judge Gorsuch as “outspoken about the need for courts to have a limited role in American life,” adding that he “has criticized what he considers the disproportionate powers taken on by federal agencies.”
A Wednesday op-ed in the same paper noted a decision in which he opined that the Constitution “isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams for a new and perfected tort law, but a carefully drafted text judges are charged with applying according to its original public meaning.”
Sounds like Mr. Trump hit a home run. The Associated Press reported that even liberal Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley called Judge Gorsuch “unassailable in his experience, intellect and demeanor.”
None of this means anything, of course, in the blood sport that has become judicial politics. Democrats are girding for revenge after the GOP last year refused to consider Barack Obama’s pick to fill the same vacancy, created when Justice Antonin Scalia died last January. Expect the escalation of destructive partisan gamesmanship — tactics both sides have perfected at the expense of compromise and collegiality — to continue.
If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., invokes the “nuclear option” to avoid a filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination, Democrats will have nobody to blame but their former leader Harry Reid. Yet such a move — sure to be discouraged by some GOP senators — would be short-sighted and only exacerbate the partisan divide to the detriment of the upper house and the nation.
Let’s remember that the Senate electoral map leans heavily toward Republicans next year. Democrats must defend 25 of the 33 seats in play — and 10 of those incumbents hail from states that Mr. Trump carried in the 2016 election, including GOP strongholds such as Missouri, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana and West Virginia. Whether Judge Gorsuch is eventually confirmed to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court could depend on how many of those vulnerable senators are willing to walk the plank for the party leadership.