Neil Gorsuch is eminently qualified to become the next U.S. Supreme Court justice and deserves to be swiftly confirmed by what I hope is a 60-plus bipartisan vote in the Senate.
Certainly Gorsuch should be subjected to the rigors of the confirmation process, which could begin in mid-March. But Gorsuch should not be subjected to any partisan, ideological witch hunt from either side, any more than former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, deserved the treatment he received last year.
The people concerned with Gorsuch’s position in the Hobby Lobby ruling ought to consider other opinions along the religious freedom spectrum, too. True, Gorsuch and fellow judges on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a corporation should not be compelled to compromise sincerely held religious beliefs to satisfy a federal mandate on providing contraception among medical benefits. But Gorsuch also wrote an opinion in favor of a man’s right to exercise his Native American religion in a Wyoming prison — even though the man had murdered his own daughter. Allowing that prisoners give up civil liberties when incarcerated, Gorsuch wrote “Congress has (repeatedly) instructed that the sincere exercise of religion should not be among them. ...”
To me this sounds like a judge who follows the law, and not the politicized path that some Americans find troubling. A Boise resident wrote me recently struggling to understand how we got to a point where our Supreme Court seems so polarized and predictable. He’s not surprised there are sharp, split decisions, “But it bothers me that I know ahead of time how each (Justice) will vote on certain issues.”
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Add to that the fact the court has been down one member since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia over a year ago. Without doubt, eight is not a good number for the complement on the Supreme Court. So, let’s get on with it.
Gorsuch was confirmed for his federal appeals court post by a unanimous Senate 10 years ago. It seems to me the only obstacles standing in his way are none of his doing: petulant Democratic senators still sore because petulant GOP senators would not give Garland the time of day: and anti-President Donald Trump sentiment, mostly brought on by Trump.
Trump should be credited with bringing Gorsuch’s name forward, but he did him a disservice last summer when then-candidate Trump declared he would appoint only judges who were “anti-abortion.” And he upped the ante by exhorting Republicans to use the so-called “nuclear option” — a Senate tactic that could allow a confirmation vote by 51 senators instead of the standard 60, but so-named because of the toxic fallout it would create.
For a narrow vote to transpire now because of politics would be a terrible outcome for an already divided nation. I am heartened Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was impressed with Gorsuch after an interview Monday — though she stopped short of saying she was ready to vote for him.
There are other things riding on the Senate moving quickly on Gorsuch: there are 116 vacancies among 890 total federal judicial positions, according to a recent tally by the Sacramento Bee. One of Idaho’s two slots is in desperate need of filling. The GOP-controlled Senate failed to act on Obama’s nominee for Idaho, Pocatello’s Judge David C. Nye, even though Idaho’s two Republican senators supported his appointment.
Monday a spokesman from Sen. Mike Crapo’s office gave this update: “The Trump Administration is aware of Judge Nye and the support of Sens. Crapo and (Jim) Risch for his renomination. They remain hopeful that Judge Nye will be nominated quickly by the White House.”
Here’s hoping the Senate can do right by the nation and confirm Gorsuch, and then get to work on those 116 other slots. All it will take is for senators to realize they are working for America, not political parties.
Senate Hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has hinted the hearings could begin in March and President Donald Trump wants his nominee, Neil Gorsuch, seated in time for the April session of the Supreme Court. But these hints and wishes have to mesh with reality.
Traditionally, according to a piece in SCOTUSblog, Senate hearings begin within six weeks of the nomination. That would place them somewhere around March 15 — which, coincidentally, is the Ides of March — the date historians assign to the assassination of Julius Caesar as the result of a conspiracy by a coalition of Roman senators.