Donald Trump announced his pick for the Supreme Court seat that Republicans stole from President Obama: Neil Gorsuch, a conservative judge who cloaks his regressive views in the language of "religious liberty." And Democrats are already out of the gate in strong opposition.
In true Trumpian fashion, unpopularly elected Donald Trump treated the announcement of his Supreme Court pick like a reality show competition, bringing both "finalists" to Washington, D.C., to heighten the suspense — but even that, he could not get quite right.
In the East Room of the White House Tuesday night, Trump announced the winner, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch — while also blowing the introduction:
Today, I am keeping another promise to the American people by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch, of the United States Supreme Court, to be of the United States Supreme Court. And I would like to ask Judge Gorsuch and his wonderful wife, Louise, to please step forward. [pause] Please, Louise, Judge? [looks around] Here they come! Here they come.
Gorsuch was appointed to the appeals court in 2006 by George W. Bush, and while he has not weighed in specifically on Roe v. Wade, he has left a few disturbing clues to his views on reproductive freedom: He was praised by anti-choice activist Michael Fragoso as part of a conservative, pro-life "College of Judicial Cardinals," has sided with Hobby Lobby in their effort to deny contraceptive coverage to employees, and has sided against Planned Parenthood by deciding not to hear a First Amendment case on sketchy jurisdictional grounds.
At his confirmation hearing in 2006, Gorsuch talked the talk with regard to keeping his personal views out of his decisions. When asked about his well-known opposition to assisted suicide — which he once compared with with abortion in an amicus brief — as a similar matter of "conscience" for medical providers, Gorsuch told the committee that "my personal views, as I hope I have made clear, have nothing to do with the case before me in any case. The litigants deserve better than that, the law demands more than that."
Gorsuch's affinity for "religious liberty" arguments and apparent indifference to reproductive freedom are red flags that must be carefully scrutinized by Democrats, as is his overt hostility to federal regulations and habit of siding with corporations over individuals.
In a strongly-worded statement on Gorsuch's nomination, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said:
The Senate must insist upon 60-votes for any Supreme Court nominee, a bar that was met by each of President Obama’s nominees. The burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the Executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans.
Given his record, I have very serious doubts about Judge Gorsuch’s ability to meet this standard. Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice on the Court.
Make no mistake, Senate Democrats will not simply allow but require an exhaustive, robust, and comprehensive debate on Judge Gorsuch’s fitness to be a Supreme Court Justice.
In a separate statement, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) firmly declared:
I cannot support any nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people. The Supreme Court has enormous influence over the lives of everyday Ohioans, and any nominee must be willing to defend their rights to make their own healthcare decisions, collectively bargain for safe workplaces and fair pay, and to be protected from discrimination and Wall Street greed.
Whatever the outcome of Gorsuch's conformation hearing, this selection ought not to be judged against the many other, potentially worse, choices that Trump could have made, but rather against the selection that was stolen from President Obama, and the selection that Hillary Clinton would have made had the election not been stolen from her.
In this context, and in this troubling new reality, there is more than enough reason for Democrats to resist this nomination.