Judge Neil Gorsuch is a spectacular selection for the Supreme Court, and a fine successor to Justice Antonin Scalia.
It's hard to overstate the role that this Supreme Court vacancy had in the polling booths last fall. With continuing religious liberty cases and growing momentum to revisit significant questions before a divided court, the replacement to Scalia could not be more significant. Senate Republicans rightly held off on a Supreme Court nomination in the midst of a presidential election, and for many in both parties the election was a referendum on the Supreme Court.
Candidate Trump recognized this. He promised not only to appoint a conservative judge to the bench, but also, in an unprecedented move, released a list of potential judges eight months before he'd even be able to take action. The experience, gravitas, and conservative principles of those on his list were enough to reassure hesitant voters, and deliver a large number of his winning votes on Election Day.
Now President Trump not only makes good on his campaign promise, but also aptly fulfills his pledge to choose someone "in the mold of Justice Scalia." The comparisons between the two men are numerous. Both are originalists, with proper respect for the Constitution as originally written. As Gorsuch put it (in Cordova v. City of Albuquerque), the Constitution "isn't some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams..., but a carefully drafted text judges are charged with applying according to its original public meaning."
Gorsuch's career is full of decisions in accord with Scalia's opinions on religious liberty, the Second Amendment, criminal laws, and the commerce clause. To the delight of law students everywhere, Gorsuch's legal writing is even likened to Scalia: His decisions are both clear and powerful.
While his high-profile decisions in favor of Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor should rightfully encourage constitutionalists, Gorsuch's opinion in the less prominent Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch is equally encouraging for those in favor of limited government. In it, Gorsuch takes on the "Chevron doctrine," a precedent that defers to federal agencies' interpretations of their own responsibilities. A true dismantling of the administrative state will require support from all three branches, and Gorsuch's eloquent attack on bureaucracies provides impressive judicial analysis.
Gorsuch will be an intellectual leader on the Court, and brings to it a very strong record, a formidable mind, and great depth of analysis.
Some Senate Democrats have promised a filibuster of any nominee, despite the fact that Gorsuch was confirmed to the Tenth Circuit by the Senate without objection and unanimously received the American Bar Association's highest rating.
But there are ten Democrats in the Senate up for reelection in 2018 in states where President Trump carried more than 60% of the counties in November. If forced to answer to those constituents, the filibuster may flounder. Already, the acting Solicitor General under the Obama administration has called for Gorsuch to be confirmed. If, despite this, the filibuster continues, Senate Republicans could enact a rule change to require a simple majority for confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee. This would be consistent with the change Senate Democrats enacted in 2013 for presidential appointments to the lower courts.
Regardless of political maneuvers, President Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch should, and will, be confirmed. The Constitution will be made stronger for it.
Matthew Spalding is associate vice president and dean of educational programs for Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C.
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