Editorials and Opinion
[Editorial] A sorry day for democracy and the high court (News & Observer [NC], 04/06/17)
"President Obama nominated a respected, moderate federal judge, Merrick Garland, 63, to fill the Supreme Court seat of Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly in February of last year. The then-president was doing his constitutional duty, and in Garland he chose an experienced judge who was hardly a liberal ideologue and clearly qualified for membership on the high court.... Republican senators in using the “nuclear option” of a majority-only requirement for approval, reject the very logic they used against Garland, that the people through their votes would let it be known what kind of justice they wanted. By that logic, the people wanted Garland, because three million more of them voted against President Trump than for him. This is a sorry day indeed for democracy, and Mitch McConnell, the hard-line Republican leader from Kentucky who signaled his ardent dislike for President Obama from the beginning of his two terms as the elected president of the United States, offers ridiculous logic for his maneuver.... The “norms” would have required a vote on Garland; the “norms” would have left in place the requirement that a nominee have 60 votes to avoid filibuster. McConnell is the one who “moved the goalposts,” and he knows it."
McConnell: ‘Nuclear option’ helps Senate. McCain: ‘Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.’ (Washington Post, 04/06/17)
Paul Kane: “Idiot, whoever says that is a stupid idiot, who has not been here and seen what I’ve been through and how we were able to avoid that on several occasions,” McCain said Wednesday, recalling past efforts to defuse these judicial confirmation wars. “And they are stupid and they’ve deceived their voters because they are so stupid.”... “This is a body blow to the institution, and I think we’re on a slippery slope,” McCain said.... Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, agrees with Lott’s prediction. In a little-noticed floor speech, Corker blasted unnamed senators who said the 2013 nuclear option by Democrats to end most filibusters on nominees and the pending Republican step were not bad for the Senate.... He recounted how, after Democrats first triggered the nuclear option to end filibusters on most nominees, the Senate practically stopped working.
“There were days — not days, months — where people who had normally worked with people on the other side of the aisle just kind of shut down. It was hard to believe the nuclear option had been invoked,” Corker said.
Now, the sides have changed. McConnell has gone from hating the filibuster (2005) to supporting it (2013) to again trying to abolish it (2017) — an evolving set of positions that correlate with which party had the majority.
Going Nuclear Will Make Things Worse: Nixing the filibuster will deepen Senate partisanship. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/06/17)
Prof. Lauren Bell: Eliminating the supermajority cloture requirement, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he will do in order to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, will further harm the Senate as an institution and reduce its capacity to function as an essential part of our government....Continuing to chip away at the minority party's rights in the Senate will not serve either party, or the country, well in the long run.
Kill the Filibuster, Kill Trust in the Court: Ending the filibuster over partisan bickering endangers the Supreme Court's independence. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/06/17)
Prof. Jamal Greene: the case for retaining the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees is straightforward. We rely on the nine justices of the Supreme Court to make dramatic pronouncements about our public life....If we are to grant a lifetime appointment to a human being to wield this kind of power, the least we should demand is that he or she receive bipartisan support. ... Party-line support is uniquely damaging for high court appointees.... judges cannot do their jobs without the confidence of the public.
Bill Price: Sens. Manchin, Capito should vote no on Gorsuch (Gazette) (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 04/06/17)
Bill Price, Sierra Club: Judge Gorsuch appears to be as hostile to citizen enforcement as Scalia, if not more so. On three separate occasions, he has denied access to the courts for environmental groups to federal courts, relying on cramped views of what it takes to establish access to the federal courts. He has written about his disdain for public interest litigation, a dangerous view of the environmental laws that have safeguarded this country’s air, water and wilderness from devastating harms.
[Editorial] Filibuster Gorsuch to make a crucial point (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 04/05/17)
"South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, led the charge in denying Merrick Garland a hearing after then-President Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court seat that needed to be filled in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr underscored just how extreme the GOP has become when he declared that even if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, he would “do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”
He also bragged that he was already responsible for the longest judicial vacancy ever by denying the confirmation of an Obama nominee in the eastern district of North Carolina, illustrating just why Democrats felt the need to use the nuclear option for lower court appointments when they were in control. They did so in response to a Republican Party that routinely filibustered Obama nominees. While they haven’t gotten as much attention, that tactic left dozens of empty judicial seats throughout the country that can now be filled by President Donald Trump.... If Democrats simply went along and acted as though the GOP’s purposeful decision to leave the Supreme Court short-handed for a year was a legitimate exercise of political power, they would unwittingly be codifying that extremism.
And that would not be good for either party – or the country."
Chuck Grassley Gives a History Un-Lesson on Judges (People For blog, 04/05/17)
Paul Gordon: During the eight years President Clinton served in office, more than 60 of his circuit and district court nominees became victims of the Republicans’ “pocket filibuster.” ... George W. Bush took office, at which point Republicans spent eight years demanding that all judicial nominees receive floor votes.
But the minute it was a Democratic president again, the GOP went back into obstruction mode. ... Republicans exercised every procedural trick in the book to slow down the confirmation process for all judicial nominees, regardless of level (circuit or district), regardless of support from home state Republicans, and even regardless of a complete lack of opposition at all.... Republicans escalated their war even further when Grassley himself announced that he and his party would refuse to allow President Obama to fill any of the three vacancies on the 11-member D.C. Circuit. ... As Rep. Adam Schiff of California said: “When McConnell deprived President Obama of a vote on Garland, it was a nuclear option. The rest is fallout.”... Less than three months into the Trump administration, with only one nominee, Republicans are threatening to change the rules for Supreme Court nominees.
[Editorial] No to Gorsuch (Rutland Herald [VT] , 04/05/17)
"Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders are willing to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, offended by the candidate’s evasiveness and alarmed by his ideological rigidity.... If they give in to McConnell they will have retained the right to filibuster but would have lost the power to exercise it. Instead, they would have surrendered to one of the most egregious power grabs in the nation’s history, allowing the Republicans to place their stamp on the judiciary in order to impose an agenda on the nation that the nation has shown no indication it supports.... The refusal of the Republicans to allow even a hearing on President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court showed that they were willing to scoff at their own constitutional obligations in service of their ideological and economic loyalties.
Gorsuch’s refusal to answer even the most basic questions about his thinking was an expression of the same contempt for Congress that McConnell displayed in refusing to allow a hearing for Garland. Gorsuch’s affable muteness sent a message: I am above the people and their concerns. I have no responsibility to anyone but the narrow band of millionaires and ideologues who have advanced my nomination and to the president who has declared war on the American government.
Much is at stake with the Gorsuch nomination. His own rulings suggest he adheres to a view that the high court went astray in the 1930s in decisions allowing the federal government to give rule-making power to agencies established to protect workers, consumers, investors, air, water, the purity of food and drugs.... Leahy and Sanders are taking a necessary and principled stand against the Republican effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court.
Polarizing politics begets ‘nuclear option’: Editorial (Poughkeepsie Journal [NY] , 04/05/17)
"President Obama picked an eminently qualified judge to serve on the high court, but Senate Republicans refused to extend Merrick B. Garland a confirmation hearing. They indefensibly let that linger for 293 days, leaving a Supreme Court seat vacant following the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats haven’t forgotten. Some contend Republicans are essentially stealing Garland’s seat, and they add that Gorsuch has refused to address questions on a host of important issues ... Considering these are lifetime appointments involving some of the most powerful people in the world, retaining the 60-vote, supermajority threshold for Supreme Court nominees would make considerable sense. It provides, among other things, a measure of bipartisan validation in a country deeply divided."
Will All Senate Republicans Kowtow to Trump and the Far Right on the Nuclear Option? (Huffington Post, 04/05/17)
Elliot Mincberg, People For the American Way: in the past, Republican senators like Collins, Graham, and McCain were willing to stand up to a Republican president and the far Right.... It is clear that these Republican senators, as well as others who have sought to work across the aisle like Corker, Alexander, Heller, and Flake, have a choice. If only three refuse to vote for the nuclear option, it will fail and the Gorsuch nomination will not go forward. In the first few months of the Trump administration, when the initial nomination of a secretary of labor and the appointment of the national security advisor failed, Trump put forth a different nominee who, while conservative, was clearly less objectionable. The same could happen with respect to the Supreme Court. That happened years ago when the Senate rejected the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, and President Reagan instead nominated Anthony Kennedy. More recently, President Clinton decided not to nominate his first choice for the Supreme Court, Bruce Babbitt, based on the advice of Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Republican Orrin Hatch, and instead selected a nominee who Hatch had suggested.
Letter to the Editor, April 5 (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 04/05/17)
John Denham: I am sick and tired of the Democrats and others allowing the bullies in Washington to set the rules. Republicans stole the pick for Supreme Court justice, and Democrats stood around being civil. Now it appears that The Chronicle is suggesting that the Senate allow Neil Gorsuch to go through without a fight. Democrats must filibuster ... If Republicans change the rules, they will have cheated
Gorsuch nomination (Capital Gazette [MD], 04/05/17)
Debra Connors, Letter to the Editor: Dear U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen:... Gorsuch's extreme record has left him short of the 60 votes traditionally required to close debate and vote on a Supreme Court nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to get this extreme nominee confirmed this Friday, before senators have to answer to their constituents over the upcoming recess. McConnell knows he's short of the votes he needs and wants to invoke the "nuclear option" and change 230 years of Senate precedent to eliminate the filibuster and ram Gorsuch through.... Encourage your Republican Senate friends to back away from the nuclear option. If their Supreme Court nominee is so extreme that he can't get to 60 votes, you don't change the rules, you change the nominee!
The debate over confirming Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (Washington Post, 04/05/17)
Steven Rathjen, Letter to the Editor: the battle to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the debate over changing Senate rules to do so. The larger issue is the desire to fill each vacancy with a partisan jurist who will ensure that court decisions support the current majority party’s ideology. ... eliminating the requirement for a nominal 60-vote consensus in the Senate for confirmation of Supreme Court justices likely would mean confirming future justices from the ideological extremes. That would lead to a perceived lack of objectivity by the court, calling into question its role as the legitimate interpreter of the Constitution and final independent arbiter of our laws.
It is essential that our democracy have a strong, independent and unbiased Supreme Court to serve as the venue of last resort for those seeking justice and to prevent overreach by the legislative and executive branches of government. A consensus membership on the court is necessary to ensure this happens.
Editorial: America needs supermajority Supreme Court opinions (Grand Forks Herald [ND], 04/05/17)
"It's called the "nuclear option" for a reason. When Senate Republicans blast open a Democratic filibuster this week and confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the move will lay waste to a long tradition.
And when the smoke clears, we'll see a much more fractured Senate."
[Editorial] McConnell reaps harvest of division (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 04/05/17)
"During his years as minority leader, McConnell wielded Senate rules, such as the 60-vote requirement, like no one ever before. McConnell’s goal: block President Barack Obama’s appointments and legislative agenda. Last year, as majority leader, McConnell refused to give Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland so much as a hearing on the invented grounds that the appointment rightfully belonged to the next president.
Interestingly, McConnell refused during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” to support formalizing his invented rule .... he has only his past actions to blame for Democrats’ stubbornness. ... Democrats, logically enough, think that easing Gorsuch’s confirmation would reward McConnell’s intransigence on the Obama nominee.... McConnell was so effective at blocking Obama’s nominees that President Donald Trump inherited almost twice as many judicial vacancies (an estimated 103) as Obama did (53).
Eroding the 60-vote requirement, also known as the filibuster, does alter the nature of the Senate in ways that McConnell once decried. The Senate would become less consenus-oriented and deliberative .... The objections to Gorsuch are rooted in substance not politics alone. The Coloradan came off less qualified in person than on paper. His record reflects an intemperate zeal to dismantle protections for workers, consumers, clean water and air.... McConnell, who perfected the obstructionist model, is reaping what he sowed."
No on Gorsuch (Green Valley [AZ] News & Sun, 04/05/17)
Gail Vanderhoof, Letter to the Editor: I am deeply concerned about Neil Gorsuch becoming a Supreme Court judge. His record shows that he would expand unpopular Citizens United (billionaires and corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections). His record reveals he is a far right-wing judge .... The Democrats will filibuster. If the Republicans cannot find 60 votes, they should, with honor, choose another candidate. If Republicans confirm Gorsuch using the so-called nuclear option, it will look to the world like they have become an anti-democratic rubber stamp for Trump.
Tester, Not Daines, Sides With 75 Percent Of Montanans On Gorsuch Vote (Montana Public Radio, 04/05/17)
Evan Barrett: Montana’s two U.S. Senators are split on the vote to confirm or not confirm Neil Gorsuch as the next lifetime member of the US Supreme Court. Senior Senator Jon Tester has decided to vote against confirmation, citing Gorsuch’s propensity to judge cases in a way that empowers corporations over individuals. ... Senator Tester’s opposition to Gorsuch based on this is consistent with the position held by 75% of Montanans when they voted on these very questions on a ballot issue in 2012.... All the while Daines maintained his record-setting obstructionism on Merrick Garland for the last 8 months, he was silent on the “most important” issue of the American people deserving “nine members on the Supreme Court.”
Opinion: Does Business Have a Pal in Neil Gorsuch? (National Law Journal, 04/05/17)
Judith Schaeffer: the “business community … sees much to like in Gorsuch’s record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit,” and that in “addition to areas including arbitration and regulation, they see a judge who favors cramped interpretations of laws that are supposed to protect workers and others."
Letter to the editor: Collins hypocritical in attacking Democrats’ filibuster (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/05/17)
Hani Jarawan: During the Obama presidency, the Republican Party ground the Senate to a halt by blocking everything. They left hundreds of lower court seats vacant. ... Not only did Susan Collins not criticize her party’s leadership for setting filibuster records, she also joined in that callow, historic obstruction. Her lame indignation about Democrats’ opposition to Neil Gorsuch is yet more evidence that decades of Washington partisanship have spoiled the senator’s moderation.
Letter: Mitch McConnell’s blame game (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/05/17)
Kendall Robins: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to exercise the nuclear option if the Democrats filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and then says it will be on the Democrats if he does so.
That's just like a kidnapper threatening to kill the kid if the parents don't pay up, and then saying that the resulting murder would be the fault of the parents.
And, it's ironic that McConnell is still seething over the Democrats going nuclear on federal judge nominations, which was in response to McConnell clearly declaring 100 percent obstruction to anything and everything Barack Obama wanted to do, even if it was a good idea. And, it was McConnell who denied Obama, our duly elected president, any consideration at all for his nomination of Merrick Garland.
Blue Slips and the Trump Administration: What to Expect in the Coming Months (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/04/17)
Harsh Voruganti: one Senate practice may work to constrain Trump’s more conservative nominees and encourage him to work with Democrats: the blue slip.... the Trump Administration should expect Democratic Senators to use the blue slip process to pre-clear judicial nominees for their state. Under the Obama Administration, Republican Senators took a similar stand, blocking nominees they viewed as insufficiently conservative.... Even if the Trump Administration chooses to pre-clear its nominees with home-state senators, Democrats may, consistent with the actions of Republican Senators, withdraw their support after nomination. In 2011, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) initially expressed support for the nomination of Steve Six to the Tenth Circuit. However, under pressure from conservative groups, he and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) came out in opposition to Six shortly after his hearing, essentially killing his nomination. Similarly, President Obama’s nomination to the Northern District of Georgia after Boggs, Judge Dax Erik Lopez, a Republican and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, was blocked by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) after conservative groups objected to Lopez’s membership in Latino civic organizations. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blocked two nominees to the Southern District of Florida, Judge William Thomas and Mary Barzee Flores, after initially indicating his support to the White House.
Condemnations of the Nuclear Option, Even in Red States (People For blog, 04/04/17)
Paul Gordon: As Mitch McConnell decides whether to try to exercise the nuclear option, influential newspapers across the country—even in the reddest of red states—are urging Senate Republicans not to take that path. This includes newspapers that have endorsed Gorsuch but would rather see him replaced as the nominee than be confirmed through a partisan change in Senate rules.... As all these editorial boards say, exercising the nuclear option would do immense damage to the nation.
On Gorsuch, Senate Should Debate, Deliberate (Jost on Justice: Law & Justice Blog, 04/04/17)
Kenneth Jost: The Senate should not vote this week on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch. ,,, the reason for slowing down the vote is that Senate Republicans owe it to the American people to allow full debate and deliberation on Gorsuch's nomination before sending him to the Supreme Court for what is likely to be 25 years or longer....They will be getting
* A justice who is a threat to reproductive rights, LGBT rights, and workers' and consumers' rights.
* A justice who is a threat to clean air and clean water regulations.
*A justice who would invite a larger role for money in politics by narrowing the power of Congress or state legislatures to limit campaign contributions.
* A justice who could be a pivotal vote for expanding presidential power at a time when the president is a constitutional time-bomb waiting to go off.
* A justice with no record of promoting racial justice or protecting voting rights at a time when those issues tarnish America's claims to liberty and justice for all.
Editorial: Toomey’s rule change proposal threatens bipartisanship (Pitt News [PA] , 04/04/17)
The Pitt News Editorial Board: If Congressional Republicans thought they had gained the power to disregard the rules with their victories in last November’s elections, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., just signed onto a rules change to the Supreme Court nomination process that ... will likely harm both parties. The Pennsylvania senator announced last week at a press conference that he would support a move to modify the upper Congressional chamber’s rules in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court .... The GOP notably refused to consider Merrick Garland last year for Scalia’s seat. However, Senate Republicans were using this tactic of ignoring nominees long before they won control of the chamber. The GOP’s efforts to block Obama nominees to lower federal judgeships led to Senate Democrats in 2013 removing the procedural rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to confirm presidential nominees to these positions.
Despite this change, more than 10 percent of these judgeships are now vacant, in large part because Democrats in the Senate have not held a 51-vote majority since the 2014 midterm elections.... a change to a 51-vote majority rule would erode several elements of the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process that are vital to the institution’s integrity. Given Supreme Court justices’ power and long-term lengths, it’s important that individuals selected to be added both have majority support and appeal at least somewhat to citizens on both the left and right.... Toomey’s signing on to this proposed rules change is a short-sighted, lazy attempt to avoid doing the work of gaining bipartisan support for his party’s nominee, and will only contribute to the hyper-partisan atmosphere growing more and more omnipresent in Washington, D.C. If he is concerned about the integrity of the institution in which he serves, he will withdraw his support for this proposal.
Never Forget Merrick Garland: Why Democrats have to go through with a filibuster of Neil Gorsuch. (Slate.com, 04/04/17)
Jim Newell: When a reporter asked McCain, who was about to step into a Senate elevator, if this was the beginning of the end of the institution as we know it, he said, flatly, “Yes.” ... Not all Republicans are comfortable saying to reporters that yes, they will vote to change the rules to get Gorsuch through. ... This was a stolen seat, and Neil Gorsuch is no friend to those who possess a liberal view of government.