Neil Gorsuch sat through three days of confirmation hearings in what is turning out to be the most contentious Supreme Court nomination process since Robert Bork was rejected by Democrats in 1987. Gorsuch has been responding to an onslaught of questions aimed at revealing his political biases and how he might rule in future Supreme Court proceedings. To the chagrin of Democratic lawmakers Gorsuch has been expertly deft in answering these questions, rarely giving a glimpse into his personal beliefs or motivations behind his previous rulings and dissents. When asked specifically on his thoughts of the preceding nominee, Merrick Garland, Gorsuch has declined to comment on “politics”, other than to say that he respects Garland as a man and a judge.
This Supreme Court nomination is extremely rare in the sense that it comes on the heels of a nomination that was not acted upon by the Senate. The last time in America’s history this happened was in 1881 when President Rutherford Hayes nominated Stanley Matthews just a few weeks before the end of his term. The Senate declined to act and Matthews was held in limbo until President James Garfield renominated him. Matthews was then confirmed by the Senate with the slimmest margin in Supreme Court history, 24 to 23. Merrick Garland was nominated as a Supreme Court justice by President Barack Obama on March 16, 2016. This would be the end of Garland’s prospects for the high court, for Republican Senators had already refused to consider any of Obama’s nominees. As of this writing the Supreme Court of the United States has had a vacant seat for 373 days.
The defiant treatment of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee by the Republican Senate has created a hopeless situation for Washington Democrats. They must either put up a fight and follow through with their threat to filibuster, which would almost certainly be dismantled with a rule change from the Senate, or try to save what little is left of precedent in these matters and confirm Gorsuch as the next Supreme Court Justice of the US. Despite some calls to delay the process due to current FBI investigations into President Donald Trump’s alleged connections with Russia, the confirmation of Gorsuch seems at this point to be nearly inevitable.
The only person with complete control of this situation is Neil Gorsuch himself. As an originalist and textualist, he could very well be expected to infer from the constitution that Garland should be the one getting grilled in these confirmation hearings. Article Two of the constitution states that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court…“ It is hard to imagine a world where these rules were meant to allow a minority party to stall the nomination to the highest court in the land indefinitely and leave one of the three co-equal branches of government under strength, yet this is exactly what the Republicans have achieved. During his three days of hearings Gorush has repeatedly touted himself a man of the law, with no influence by political party or personal beliefs. If he believes what he says, he may need to rethink his current position and what it means for the future of law in the United States.
We’ll update this article with any breaking news today.