Donald Trump may have landed his first major victory as President of the United States with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Justice Gorsuch was voted in by the Senate for the seat that was left vacant by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a constitutional originalist, in February 2016. Scalia’s death is thought to have affected the results of the 2016 presidential election according to many pundits since his conservative views on abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment were considered polarizing by some.
Fifty-four senators voted Gorsuch in after a contentious three-day hearing that changed the way Supreme Court Justices are appointed by allowing a simple majority to approve an individual for the position. The hearing included an all-night protest from a Democratic Senator in a situation that has been deemed by some to be the “filibuster of all filibusters” when Senate Democrats went forward with a filibuster against what some senators viewed as a “stolen seat,” according to The Guardian.
Neil Gorsuch has an impressive record as a scholar and as a judge. He graduated with Ivy League degrees from Harvard and went on to get his doctorate from Oxford. He is a native of Colorado, and at just 49-years-old, it is probable he could spend several decades in the lifelong appointment of Supreme Court Justice. His scholarly works have included writings against euthanasia, including key phrases that have said “all life is valuable” which some Democrats have interpreted to mean that he is pro-life concerning abortion. He has never directly ruled in an abortion decision, but he was vetted by President Donald Trump, who vowed to the American public while he was on the campaign trail that he would support the nomination of a “pro-life” Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia.
The 54-45 vote, in which three Democrats crossed party lines to support Gorsuch, was hotly debated, including the timing of the vote and appointment of the ninth Supreme Court justice. The court has been operating with just eight justices for fourteen months, with four of them being conservative and four liberal, so the appointment of Gorsuch has likely tipped the scales in a fashion that would cause the court to favor a more conservative interpretation of the law.
Although Scalia died and left a seat open early in 2016, Republicans fought to keep the nomination open since it was an election year, citing the fact that the new President would vet a candidate of his choosing that was likely to be in accordance with what voters preferred, depending on who won the presidency. Democrats have called the decision to leave the position open for a year “the heist of the century.” Republicans refused to even allow a hearing for former president Barack Obama to vet his preferred nominee, Merrick Garland. Although Trump was never projected to win the presidency, Republicans were holding out hope.
Popular Senator from Arizona, Republican John McCain, shared his approval of the appointment.
“Rarely has this body seen a nominee to the Supreme Court so well-qualified, so skilled, [with] such command of constitutional jurisprudence, with such an established record of independence and such judicial temperament.”
Although the hearing was tense, there were moments of levity, such as at the end when a question from Louisiana senator John Kennedy was posed. “You’ve never been to Russia, have you?”
Gorsuch laughed, “No, I have never been to Russia.”
Gorsuch has been criticized by some Democrats for his ruling on specific cases, but Gorsuch was not well known to the American public prior to his nomination to the Supreme Court. He is set to be officially appointed and take the seat on Monday.
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