- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 08 February 2017
- Written by BRENDEN GREVE | POLITICS CO-EDITOR
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday, Jan. 31, that he will nominate Neil Gorsuch, Judge from the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, to be the newest Associate Justice to the United States Supreme Court.
The vacancy in the nation’s highest court came almost a year ago when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on Feb. 13, 2016. Scalia, a conservative and strict constitutionalist, was a very consequential loss because it threatened the conservative tilt of the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, the 49 year-old Harvard and Columbia alumnus, has similar conservative leanings in his jurisprudence as Justice Scalia. Johanna Foster, Director of the Sociology Program, considers him to be “extremely qualified, with exceptional credentials.”
Trump’s nomination of a conservative like Scalia to the Court was a crucial issue to many conservatives during the election season. Trump said while introducing his pick, “Millions of voters said this was the single most important issue for them when they voted for me for president” and “I am a man of my word.”
Chair of the Kislak Real Estate Institute and Specialist Professor at Monmouth, Peter Reinhart said, “His jurisprudence from all accounts seems to be quite conservative and is considered an ‘originalist,’ meaning he favors a more literal interpretation of the Constitution. He is basically very similar to former Justice Scalia who he would replace.”
Gorsuch showed his admiration towards Justice Scalia, by saying, “Justice Scalia was a lion of the law” in his speech accepting his nomination. He sided with the conservative justices of the court on many hot button issues. He consistently takes the side of religious liberty in his decisions.
He continued, “For example, he fought against the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act in controversial Supreme Court case, Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius. He said that the government should not force people with “sincerely held religious beliefs” into “conduct their religion teaches them to be gravely wrong.”
He also made his displeasure toward euthanasia known in his 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.
The political turmoil over the vacancy has been present for the past year, starting with the Republican members of the Senate’s refusal to hold a vote on President Barack Obama’s appointee to the court, Merrick Garland. That fight is likely to continue.
Reinhart said, “I believe that had this nomination been made a few years ago before the bitter partisanship battles that now seem to be the norm in Congress and between the President and the Congress that Judge Gorsuch’s nomination would have been a battle, but that he would have been confirmed.”
He continued “But now with the partisan treatment given President Obama’s nomination last year of Judge Merrick Garland, the Democrats are not going to make the Gorsuch confirmation hearing easy.”
According to a CNN article written on Feb. 1 by Tom LoBianco, Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said, “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 Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, expressed her opposition to Trump’s pick in a CNN town hall the same night it was announced saying, “If you breathe air, drink water or eat food, take medicine or in any other way interact with the courts, this is a very bad decision —well outside the mainstream of American legal thought.”
The Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate, 52-48. This could give the Democrats some hope at blocking Trump’s pick. However, there are dangerous political ramifications if they gamble and lose.
Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Joseph Patten, said, “There’s a growing sense that Democrats might keep their powder dry and not filibuster the Supreme Court confirmation vote in part because Senate Republicans are threatening to use the “nuclear option” (get rid of the filibuster) if they do.” Patten said that this could handicap the Democrats in other key issues.
He said, “If the Republicans did away with the filibuster Democrats would be virtually powerless to stop Republicans from repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
It is a difficult situation because the pick can have a long lasting influence on the Court. Reinhart said, “It’s an important nomination not only because he becomes the ninth justice, but because he is only 49 years old. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, so it is quite possible that he could sit on the Court for over 30 years.”
He also added, “Since there are three other sitting Justices 80 or older, there is a distinct possibility that President Trump may have more nominations to make in his term. Both political parties are no doubt factoring that possibility into their strategies on the Gorsuch nomination.”
photo taken from theatlantic.com