Sen­ate should con­firm Neil Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Bill Rit­ter Jr. and John W. Suthers

At a time when our coun­try des­per­ately needs it, the nom­i­na­tion of Coloradan Neil Gor­such to the Supreme Court presents the U.S. Sen­ate with an op­por­tu­nity to re­pair fes­ter­ing po­lit­i­cal wounds and to show that prin­ci­ple, co­op­er­a­tion and states­man­ship can co­ex­ist.

Between the two of us, we have more than 50 years of ser­vice in gov­ern­ment, much of it in elected ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions. We are of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties. We have worked to­gether on is­sues, and we have been on op­po­site sides of ar­gu­ments as well. We both un­der­stand how im­por­tant it is to the pub­lic in­ter­est that peo­ple from dif­fer­ent sides of the aisle work to­gether to­ward find­ing com­mon ground, even un­der the most dif­fi­cult of cir­cum­stances.

Look­ing back, it is easy to see why frus­tra­tion in the U.S. Sen­ate is at a boil­ing point. Ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions have been blocked, “nu­clear op­tions” have been de­ployed to change long­stand­ing rules, and

ma­jor poli­cies have been im­ple­mented us­ing pro­ce­dural ma­neu­vers over the unan­i­mous ob­jec­tion of the other party. No­body has clean hands. The temp­ta­tion to re­tal­i­ate is un­der­stand­able.

The Sen­ate, though, can break this de­struc­tive cy­cle by re­ject­ing both the fil­i­buster and the “nu­clear op­tion,” and hold­ing an up-or-down vote on the mer­its of Judge Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion.

As a let­ter re­cently signed by a di­verse group of more than 220 prom­i­nent Colorado lawyers of ev­ery po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion high­lights, Gor­such is a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to Colorado’s last Supreme Court jus­tice, By­ron White, for whom Gor­such once clerked.

Gor­such’s tem­per­a­ment, per­sonal de­cency and qual­i­fi­ca­tions are be­yond dispute. But as he him­self has noted, the same was true of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee, Judge Mer­rick Gar­land. Many feel a great deal of bit­ter­ness over the fact that Gar­land did not get an up-or-down vote in the months that he was nom­i­nated. That bit­ter­ness is le­git­i­mate, and the in­stinct for re­venge is un­der­stand­able.

But while we may dis­agree about whether Gor­such’s or Gar­land’s ju­di­cial phi­los­o­phy is prefer­able, we strongly agree that ret­ri­bu­tion is not a le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ing prin­ci­ple. Both are ex­cel­lent judges. But only one is now a nom­i­nee for the Supreme Court, and it is that nom­i­na­tion the Sen­ate will con­sider soon. It is time to look for­ward, not back. It is time to rise above the po­lit­i­cal fray, and for both sides of the aisle to com­mit to the high road go­ing for­ward.

We be­lieve that the up­com­ing hear­ings and votes are crit­i­cal for Gor­such and for the preser­va­tion of the in­de­pen­dence of the Supreme Court. They are just as crit­i­cal a test for the in­sti­tu­tion of the U.S. Sen­ate. Block­ing a vote on this nom­i­na­tion, in part to avenge what was done in the past, may well do more harm to the U.S. Sen­ate than to ei­ther the Supreme Court or to Gor­such.

A Sen­ate that func­tions based on back­ward-look­ing re­venge and tit-for­tat tac­tics weak­ens it­self most of all. It is our hope that sen­a­tors from both sides of the aisle can put aside the po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions that have led us to this precipice.

We be­lieve this is an op­por­tu­nity for sen­a­tors to agree that the 60-vote clo­ture rule serves an im­por­tant role in pre­vent­ing con­fir­ma­tion of truly un­qual­i­fied nom­i­nees for the Supreme Court, and that nei­ther it nor the nu­clear op­tion should be used as tools for mere po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences or cyn­i­cal reprisals.

It is time to use this con­fir­ma­tion process to ex­am­ine and ex­alt the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a judge who demon­strates that he or she is schol­arly, com­pas­sion­ate, com­mit­ted to the law, and will func­tion as part of a truly in­de­pen­dent, apo­lit­i­cal ju­di­ciary. Judge Gor­such fits that bill. «FROM 1D

Wil­son, Getty Im­ages file Mark

U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee Neil Gor­such’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings be­gin Mon­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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