Trumps Pick for the Supreme Court
February 10, 2017
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Jan. 31, saw the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the appointed life-long position of Supreme Court Justice. The 49-year-old Harvard and Oxford-educated lawyer previously served as a judge for the Federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
If confirmed, Gorsuch will fill the vacant ninth seat on the Supreme Court. This spot on the bench has been open since Justice Antonin Scalia died nearly one year ago during the Obama Administration. Former President Barrack Obama attempted to fill the seat as his executive prerogative, but his nomination of Merrick Garland was held up by Republican officials’ refusal to move forward with confirmation hearings.
“Garland is considered a moderate, but would have changed the balance on the Court in several significant ways. In contrast, Gorsuch would largely fall in line with Scalia’s previous decisions on most issues, and so we would have a similar balance as before Scalia’s death…The refusal of Republicans to even meet with Garland was unprecedented. And President Trump is presenting a number of unique legal issues that will work themselves through the courts,” said Martin J. Adamian, Associate Professor of Political Science.
Gorsuch, like Scalia, takes the position that his reading of the Constitution is based on its literal wording as it was originally written. This is opposed to understandings of the Constitution as a living document that is to be interpreted according to changing social needs. But what does this mean in terms of decisions that affect ordinary people in their everyday lives?
“There are potentially huge impacts on people, but it all depends on how the votes of the justices align. If Gorsuch is confirmed, and a strong conservative block forms, then the court could render decisions that would be hugely important. It’s possible that abortion rights could be cut back or eliminated, voting rights undermined, and union organizing rights diminished. Changes that would affect virtually the entire population would be decisions that reduced the power of the federal government in economic regulation, or diminished the authority of the federal government over states. In short, a strongly conservative court could affect many aspects of everyday life,” said Taylor Dark, Associate Professor of Political Science.
Despite the objections some non-conservatives may have to Gorsuch’s nomination, he may have the least political baggage that could bar him being admitted to the highest court in the country.
“The attention Hardiman got may have been tied to the fact that Trump’s sister serves on the same court as he does…Pryor would have been the most controversial nominee of the three…His ties to Jeff Sessions probably go a ways to explaining how he made the list,” said Professor of Political Science, Donna C. Schuele, regarding President Trump’s other top picks for the court, Thomas Hardiman, William Pryor Jr. and Sessions.
Gorsuch’s confirmation is expected to produce a significant commotion relative to the other confirmations being argued. Democrats may attempt to block Gorsuch’s confirmation by filibustering – just as Republicans did last year with President Obama’s nominee. It is unclear if Republicans will successfully argue against the Democrats’ filibustering of the exact thing they did last year without appearing hypocritical. Republicans could use the so-called “nuclear option” to force the nomination through the confirmation process. This would entail a changing of the rules of the process to prohibit the use of a filibuster. The rule already exists for other types of confirmation hearings, but currently it does not exist for confirmations to the Supreme Court.