Guest Opinion: Gorsuch deserves Supreme Court confirmation
Senate hearings over the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch have concluded, and they have not changed our conviction that President Donald Trump’s pick for the high court should be confirmed.
Senate tradition demands respect for the president’s nominations, so long as they are not unfit for the job and are within the ideological mainstream. Gorsuch is a brilliant legal writer and thinker. And while he is extremely conservative, his judicial philosophy falls well within today’s ideological and political norms.
Gorsuch’s nomination is one of the most level-headed and responsible decisions Trump has made since taking office. He deserves an up-or-down vote when the matter comes to the Senate floor, probably early next month.
Democrats are not convinced, however. They have promised to filibuster the nomination, triggering a time-tested tactic used by a minority party in the Senate to require at least 60 yes votes, rather than the typical 51, to end debate and proceed to a vote on an important decision.
Republican leaders have called such opposition as unreasonable. We certainly think it’s ill-advised. But we strongly disagree with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that it would justify his invoking the so-called nuclear option, upending Senate rules to lower that debate-ending threshold to a simple majority.
We thought it was a bad idea, and so did McConnell, when his Democratic predecessor used the same approach to make Cabinet nominees and lower-court judgeships immune from the filibuster, after years of Republican obstructionism.
To double down on that bad precedent and extend it to one of the most important decisions the Senate makes ought to be anathema to McConnell. Embracing the nuclear option would stain the reputations of McConnell and other senators who support the move. And it would diminish the institution they lead.
Fortunately, Republicans have other, saner options. McConnell — and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn — can work to persuade eight Democrats to join them, arguing that all presidents’ latitude in naming replacements to the Supreme Court should be respected. They could try to scare Democrats, noting that if Trump loses on this nominee, who’s to say his next pick will suit them more? They might remind the Democrats of the political risks of being seen as obstructionists.
McConnell made things harder for Republicans with his astounding behavior last spring in rejecting sight unseen President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Democrats have every right to still be seething.
Trump didn’t make it easy either. Gorsuch is plenty qualified, but his extreme conservatism is hardly something to smooth Democrats’ ruffled feathers, not when Obama named such a moderate when he was in Trump’s shoes.
But that doesn’t mean the Republicans can’t win if they try.
And if they lose? Then their only responsible course would be to inform the president he’s going to have to make another choice.
The Senate’s long tradition of giving the minority party some leverage to fend off the majority is critical to maintain, no matter who is in power.