Why Treat This Nomination Differently?

Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, Democrats have treated Judge Neil Gorsuch exactly as expected. Every time a Republican president nominates someone for the Supreme Court, Democrats use the same scare tactics to cast the nominee as extreme.

This charge has repeatedly been proven absurd. President Ford nominated John Paul Stevens — nobody’s idea of a right-wing ideologue — to the court. One liberal activist testified at his confirmation hearing about her “grave concern” over his nomination and accused Stevens of “antagonism to women’s rights.” Justice Stevens was confirmed by a vote of 98–0. When Justice Stevens retired, President Obama said he would look to appoint someone with “similar qualities — an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law, and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people.”

When President Bush nominated David Souter to the court in 1990, the far left fumed again. Senator Ted Kennedy called Souter’s positions “troubling” and said that there was “little in his record that demonstrates real solicitude for the rights of those who are weakest and most powerless in our society.” Liberal activists said that his confirmation would be a “step backwards into dark ages.” Justice Souter was confirmed by a vote of 90–9. Upon Justice Souter’s retirement, President Obama said that he “has shown what it means to be a fair-minded and independent judge.”

Judge Gorsuch is a mainstream, highly qualified pick for the Supreme Court. The ideological descendants of the far-left groups who always attack Republican Supreme Court nominees are making the same absurd claims. This time, the attacks are aimed at a nominee who was previously confirmed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals by voice vote and who received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association. Even the left-leaning FiveThirtyEight blog found his jurisprudence on important issues to be “roughly in the middle of the ideological spectrum.”


Although the Democrats’ playbook on Republican Supreme Court nominees has been consistent, their partisan filibuster of Judge Gorsuch will be truly unprecedented. Democrats are trying to complete the first successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nomination. They hope to force Republicans to reform Senate precedent and return to the practice of giving qualified nominees an up-or-down vote. Republicans have always given a new president’s Supreme Court picks an up-or-down vote. Republicans gave this courtesy to President Clinton when he nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 and Stephen Breyer in 1994. President Obama’s first-term nominees, Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010, both got up-or-down votes as well.

A number of mainstream Democrats and liberals realize that Judge Gorsuch is highly qualified and should not be filibustered. One board member of the liberal American Constitution Society wrote that “there is no principled reason to vote no” on his confirmation. Judge Gorsuch has been described by a former Democratic solicitor general as “one of the most thoughtful and brilliant judges to have served our nation over the last century.” Two former chief judges of the 10th Circuit, one appointed by President Clinton and the other by President Reagan, wrote that Judge Gorsuch “represents the best of the judicial tradition in our country.”

What makes the Democrats’ dramatic breach of Senate norms so galling is that it is based purely on politics and meant to appease “the activist fury of the left.” They are facing the wrath of liberal groups with names like WeWillReplaceYou.org and Our Revolution. That’s why Democratic leader Chuck Schumer began promising to block a Republican nominee before anyone was even nominated. Rather than put principles over politics, Democrats have tried out an array of unfair attacks, hoping to justify their obstruction and placate these far-left groups.

Even President Obama had observed that “that there is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers and mechanisms to block the president.” He suggested instead that the best way to get liberal judges appointed to the Supreme Court is “to win elections.” In pushing a filibuster of Judge Gorsuch, it appears that the Democratic Senate leadership is choosing to follow far-left groups rather than President Obama’s advice.

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