AFTER more than a year of contentious debate over who should succeed the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in the Supreme Court, the Senate on Friday, April 7 confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil M. Gorsuch, with a vote of 54 to 45.
The battle culminated in the Democrats’ filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, with Democrats explaining why they could not vote in favor of Trump’s nominee. This filibuster became a roadblock to Gorsuch’s confirmation, as the Senate rule requires a minimum of 3/5, 60 votes, for a Supreme Court justice nominee.
With only 52 Republicans in the Senate, Gorsuch needed the support of at least eight Democrats, which he did not have because of the filibuster.
Therefore, the Republicans fired back by using the “nuclear option,” which effectively now changes the Senate rule of confirming a nominee for justice of the Supreme Court. Instead of 3/5 of the votes, they now just needed an absolute majority or 50 percent plus one minimum, to be confirmed.
The contention was anchored on ideology — conservative or liberal — as this seat will more likely become the tie breaker for cases elevated to the highest court. Before Gorsuch’s oath taking as the 113th justice, the Supreme Court has four judges deemed as liberal, and an equal number seen as conservative in their interpretation of the law, not to mention the ideology of the president who appointed them.
The confirmation of Gorsuch was preceded by the Senate Republicans’ refusal to even have a hearing, much less a vote on former President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court— Merrick Garland — following Scalia’s sudden death in February 2016. The Republicans in the Senate argued that they should not be confirming an appointee during the president’s last year in office — which was not really an official rule but something that was adopted by the Republican-majority Senate.
The Democrats who filibustered Gorsuch argued that despite his illustrious resume as judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, they expressed that his record reveals he should not be given the lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.
Some have expressed concern over his decisions that they thought favored the rich and the powerful and were troubled by his views on voting rights and campaign financing. There is, of course, the concern of his independence, especially when the man who appointed him is now the subject of many lawsuits, accusations, and scandals.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Gorsuch’s confirmation before they voted nuclear:
“Judge Gorsuch is independent and fair. He’s beyond qualified and he’ll make a stellar addition to the Supreme Court. Hardly anyone in the legal community seems to argue otherwise. And yet, our Democratic colleagues appeared poised to block this incredible nominee with the first successful filibuster in American history.”
The Democrats, on the other hand, said the Republicans had the choice not to go nuclear, which effectively killed the bipartisan spirit in the Senate. They contended that Trump could just pick another nominee who would and could have bipartisan support.
“The nuclear option means the end of the long history of consensus on Supreme Court nominations. It weakens the standing of the Senate as a whole as a check on the President’s ability to shape the judiciary. In a post-nuclear world, if the Senate and the presidency are in the hands of the same party, there is no incentive to even speak to the Senate minority. That’s a recipe for more conflict and bad blood between the parties, not less,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos