Tainted Nomination

Today I’m joining the ever-growing chorus of those asking for the Senate Democrats to do everything in their power to reject the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Let’s explore.

The first thing to look at is why there was an opening to greet Donald Trump as he entered the Oval Office. It was only because the Mitch McConnell led Senate Republicans refused to do their job in the first place. Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016 vacating his seat on the Court. After waiting a respectful period, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on March 16, 2016. McConnell claimed it was too late in Obama’s term and the next President would make the call. There is no basis in law or precedent to justify McConnell’s call. He was merely rolling the dice that the Republican would win. Had the Senate rejected Garland I would not have been as upset. They didn’t even give the man a hearing. It was clearly a case of not doing the job people elected the Republicans to do in the hope of political gain. There was a muted public outcry largely because most of us felt that Hillary Clinton would win and McConnell’s move would fail in the long run. In fact, many thought that Clinton might nominate someone more liberal than Garland.

On January 31, 2017 Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy. The fact that the nomination was so early in Trump’s presidency is mainly due to the fact that far right wing groups prepared Trump’s short list during the campaign. That tells me a lot!

I watched portions of Gorsuch’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. He was obviously well prepared answering questions with slick, well-rehearsed lines that sounded good but really told us nothing. There was one exception; his answer on what has become known as the Frozen Trucker Case. In it Gorsuch tried to justify his dissenting vote on a 10th Circuit decision in favor of a trucker’s wrongful termination case. After being stranded in freezing weather with a disabled tractor trailer and a cab without heat for over two hours the trucker in question began feeling the effects on his body. He had been terminated when he decided to leave his load and drive his cab to a location where he could seek shelter in the storm; to most of us that was be a prudent and life preserving act. To Gorsuch it was an illegal act. A visibly angry Minnesota Senator Al Franken questioned whether Gorsuch displayed the most essential quality a judge most have – judgment. I concur with the Democratic Senator from Minnesota on both counts! What is more disturbing is this decision is part of a pattern of Gorsuch disproportionately taking the side of business over labor.

To follow the “logic” McConnell used in 2016 to block even consideration of Garland – Obama was in his waning days – I want to look at Trump’s status. Trump and many of his associates are under federal investigation(s) for collaboration with a foreign power (Russia). I am not alone in thinking Trump may well not serve out his term. As of a few weeks ago it was an even money bet in the UK and Ireland where such wagering is legal. Why would we let a President who is operating under such a cloud make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court?

I am calling upon the Senate Democrats to filibuster the nomination. Under current Senate rules a Supreme Court nomination is subject to the filibuster. That means it would take 60 votes to get Gorsuch confirmed. Assuming McConnell can keep his Republican caucus together he is still 8 votes short of 60. The option open to him is to change the rules of the Senate in mid-stream and remove Supreme Court nominees from being subject to the filibuster. That is a big move with serious future implications!

Now the Senate Democrats can use some help in this process. If the nomination and possible rule change are rather low profile McConnell is likely to change the rule and deliver for his President. McConnell is a savvy politician and survivor. He is much less likely to make the rule change if Trump is in trouble and/or the people are active.

One of the big reasons this administration has been somewhat held in check is because of people power! The women’s marches of January 21st were huge. Attendance at town halls definitely had an impact on some Republican members of the House. The inundation of congressional offices (especially district offices) by calls, letters and personal visits has had an impact.

The circumstances of the opening and the election of the nominating President are suspect. The nominee is not a man of the people. He has the interests of the powerful not the population at heart. We must stop the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court or we will collectively pay a huge price for decades to come. “We” includes all of us doing whatever it is we are competent and comfortable with doing.

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