Democrats mad about Republicans refusal to confirm Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat will have a hard time blocking the nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the vacancy, predicted Supreme Court observers.
“The difference is that we are in the first two weeks of at least a four year term,” Quinnipiac law professor John Pavia said Wednesday after President Donald Trump made his selection.
Obama, Pavia noted, picked Judge Merrick B. Garland as his selection to replace Scalia, who passed away last year, in the seventh year of his presidency – one year before Obama left office.
Republicans successfully blocked a vote on Garland’s nomination, leaving the Supreme Court for the past year with a 4-4 split between liberal and conservative justices.
Trump’s selection of Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge from Denver, marked his first bid to reshape the nation’s highest court.
If confirmed, Gorsuch would restore the 5-to-4 split between liberals and conservatives on the court, handing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 80, who votes with both blocs, the swing vote.
At 49, Gorsuch is the youngest nominee to the Supreme Court in 25 years.
“He picked someone who is most aligned with Scalia,” Pavia said. “He’s the right choice.”
Gorsuch will need to draw the support of eight Democrats to join the 52 Republicans in the Senate to surmount a filibuster and move forward with an up-or-down confirmation vote.
Pavia predicted that despite the threats of Democrats filibustering the nomination that Gorsuch “will have a relatively easy time” being confirmed.
“Democrats won’t have a choice,” Pavia said. “He hasn’t made any controversial decisions. Beyond that, United States senators know that what goes around, comes around,” Pavia added, meaning they won’t stick their necks out to block Trump’s nomination.
David A. Yalof, professor and department head of Political Science at the University of Connecticut, agreed with Pavia.
“He is likely to be confirmed,” Yalof said Wednesday. “If a filibuster cannot be avoided, Senate Republicans are prepared to change the rules of the Senate and prohibit filibusters for all Supreme Court nominations.”
Yalof also agreed with Pavia that Gorsuch is similar in makeup as Scalia.
“Judge Gorsuch is a strong conservative who is likely to fall in line with nearly all elements of Justice Scalia’s jurisprudence,” Yalof said.
A Colorado native who was in the same class at Harvard Law School as Obama, Gorsuch holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and a pedigree as a law clerk at the Supreme Court to Justices Byron White and Kennedy. President George W. Bush nominated Gorsuch to the federal bench in 2006.
Gorsuch has voted in favor of employers, including Hobby Lobby, who invoked religious objections for refusing to provide some forms of contraception coverage to their female workers. And he has criticized liberals for turning to the courts rather than the legislature to achieve their policy goals.
Democrats declined invitations from Trump to attend the White House announcement.
While Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators took a wait-and-see approach to Gorsuch, U.S. Reps. Jim Himes and Rosa DeLauro were outspoken about their desire to see their colleagues in the Senate defeat the nomination.
“Fairness and comity demand that the Senate not confirm Judge Gorsuch unless he is as qualified and as moderate a jurist as Judge Merrick Garland, who by any standard of decency should occupy this Supreme Court seat,” Himes said.
DeLauro called Gorsuch an “activist judge.”
“We need a Supreme Court justice who will defend the inalienable rights of all Americans, not just the privileged few,” DeLauro said. “Over the course of his career, Judge Gorsuch has been an activist judge and I strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to vote against his confirmation and stop both Judge Gorsuch and President Trump from pushing a conservative agenda on the Supreme Court.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he has “deep, serious concerns” about Gorsuch.
He said nominating “An extreme ideologue on the Court will threaten privacy rights including women’s health care, worker and consumer protections, and public health and safety.”
“If I conclude that Judge Gorsuch is out of the mainstream, then I will pursue every legal tool available to block his nomination,” Blumenthal added.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy stated: “I want a Supreme Court Justice who will fairly interpret the law, uphold the Constitution, and keep politics out of the courtroom. I want a mainstream judge, not an ideological partisan. I’ll take a close look at Judge Gorsuch’s record and judicial philosophy, and ultimately make my decision based on whether he meets those straightforward expectations.”
Not hesitating at all to oppose the selection was Illyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a reproductive rights advocacy organization.
“With a clear track record of supporting an agenda that undermines abortion access and endangers women, there is no doubt that Gorsuch is a direct threat to Roe v. Wade and the promise it holds for women’s equality,” Hogue said.
“The fact that the court has repeatedly reaffirmed the legal right to abortion over the past four decades would no longer matter. Confirming Gorsuch to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court would make good on Trump’s repeated promises to use his appointments to overturn Roe and punish women.”