Friday 28 July 2017

President's Supreme Court choice tees up war with Democrats

Judge Neil Gorsuch, left, speaks as his wife Louise looks on after US President Donald Trump nominated him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony at the White House Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Judge Neil Gorsuch, left, speaks as his wife Louise looks on after US President Donald Trump nominated him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony at the White House Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Robert Barnes

US President Donald Trump has nominated Colorado federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

Mr Trump has opted, in the most important decision of his young presidency, for a favourite of the conservative legal establishment with high credentials to fill the opening created last year by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Judge Gorsuch (49) prevailed over the other finalist, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, also a federal appeals court judge, and Mr Trump announced the nomination at a televised event at the White House.

The bonhomie of the ceremony was in stark contrast to the reaction of Democrats, who are ready for a pitched battle over the future of the Supreme Court. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Judge Gorsuch will have to win over some Democratic senators to get the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.

Mr Trump broke tradition by entering the White House ceremony by himself, rather than alongside his nominee. He declared that after "what may be the most transparent judicial selection process in history", he had delivered on a campaign promise to "find the very best judge in America" for the court.

Judge Gorsuch took a humbler approach, and showed the flair for language that has won him praise as a legal writer.

"Standing here in a house of history, and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge that if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the constitution and laws of this great country," Judge Gorsuch said, with wife Louise, at his side.

The selection of Judge Gorsuch won extravagant praise from Republicans and conservatives, something that has been rare in the Trump administration's combustible start. "I can only hope Democrats and Republicans can come together for the good of the country," Mr Trump said. That is unlikely.

Democrats and liberals are still furious that the Republican Senate did not allow a vote on former president Barack Obama's choice for the Scalia seat, Judge Merrick Garland, and have vowed to contest Gorsuch.

Mr Trump yesterday endorsed the use of the "nuclear option" if needed to achieve Senate confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee.

Citing partisan gridlock in Washington, Mr Trump said at a White House event he would support the approval of Judge Gorsuch with 51 votes, instead of the 60 that have traditionally been required in the Senate to break a filibuster.

Discontent

Mr Trump's remarks came as Democrats have launched a battle over Judge Gorsuch's confirmation, insisting that Senate Republicans abide by the rule of requiring 60 votes, as was the case with Mr Obama's nominees. An early sign of discontent: Trump invited senior Democratic senators to the White House for a reception to meet his Supreme Court pick, but they declined.

A group of legal and civil rights groups blasted the nomination, saying Judge Gorsuch was a tool of conservative activists who would gut protections for consumers, workers, clean air and water, safe food and medicine and roll back the rights of women and gay people.

Judge Gorsuch is seen as a less bombastic version of Mr Scalia and would seem destined to be a solidly conservative vote on the ideologically split court. But friends and supporters describe Judge Gorsuch as being more interested in persuasion than Mr Scalia.

Judge Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court justice since Clarence Thomas was confirmed in 1991. But like Mr Scalia, he is a proponent of originalism - meaning that judges should attempt to interpret the words of the constitution as they were understood at the time they were written - and a textualist who considers only the words of the law being reviewed, not the consequences of the decision.

Judge Gorsuch has not ruled on abortion. But activists on both sides of the issue believe they know where he stands. They point to language in his book 'The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia' in which he opines that "all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."

Irish Independent

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