Vote on Gor­such is gi­ant

De­ci­sion, ex­pected the first week of April, could tip po­lit­i­cal bal­ance to the right

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Christo­pher N. Osher

Votes on the nom­i­na­tion of Neil Gor­such to the U.S. Supreme Court are ex­pected to take place the first week of April, set­ting up a po­lit­i­cal clash that could tip the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal bal­ance at the court and bring an end to the abil­ity to fil­i­buster such nom­i­nees.

There are four Democrats and four Repub­li­cans on the Supreme Court, with the most se­nior mem­ber, Repub­li­can An­thony Kennedy, of­ten viewed as a swing vote.

Seth Mas­ket, chair­man of the po­lit­i­cal science depart­ment at the Univer­sity of Den­ver, said if Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of Mer­rick Gar­land had been con­firmed to fill the seat that be­came va­cant with the death of hard-line con­ser­va­tive An­tonin Scalia, the court would have moved to the left. Repub­li­cans, not­ing that it was an elec­tion year, re­fused to hold hear­ings on that nom­i­na­tion.

“As­sum­ing Gor­such gets ap­proved, the court likely will be as con­ser­va­tive as it was with Scalia, and the court’s ide­o­log­i­cal makeup won’t change very much from what it was with Scalia,” Mas­ket said.

Four days of con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee ended Thurs­day. Gor­such, a Colorado na­tive and judge on the Den­ver-based 10th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals, emerged rel­a­tively un­scathed, with what could be a clear path to a seat on the na­tion’s high­est court.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, R-Iowa, has said Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate plan to con­firm Gor­such be­fore a two-week break that starts April 10.

On Thurs­day, the day Se­nate hear­ings on the nom­i­na­tion ended, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would vote no on Gor­such and vowed to fil­i­buster the nom­i­na­tion.

Un­der the rules of the Se­nate, it takes 60 votes to over­come such an ob­sta­cle, and Repub­li­cans have 52 sen­a­tors. Those num­bers mean Repub­li­cans would need eight votes from Democrats or In­de­pen­dents to move Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion for­ward un­der cur­rent se­nate rules.

With that slim mar­gin, in­tense pres­sure will

be placed on U.S. Sen. Michael Ben­net, a Demo­crat from Colorado, who isn’t up for re-elec­tion un­til 2022, po­lit­i­cal ob­servers have said. Lib­eral groups are count­ing on Ben­net to work to block Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion, but he also faces pres­sure from Repub­li­can groups, who can re­mind him that his fel­low sen­a­tor from Colorado, Repub­li­can Cory Gard­ner, de­feated Mark Udall, a Demo­crat, in 2014.

Repub­li­cans have vowed Gor­such will be con­firmed. Repub­li­cans can over­haul the Se­nate’s rules to al­low a sim­ple ma­jor­ity to pro­ceed with a vote on a nom­i­nee for the Supreme Court. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, in a Fe­bru­ary com­ment, en­cour­aged Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., to take that ap­proach, known as the so-called nu­clear op­tion, should the nom­i­na­tion be stalled with a fil­i­buster.

Do­ing so would dra­mat­i­cally al­ter the rules of the Se­nate, Mas­ket said, and could end up hurt­ing Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate two years from now if they fare poorly dur­ing midterm elec­tions and be­come the mi­nor­ity party again.

“There might be some hes­i­tancy to get­ting rid of the fil­i­buster,” Mas­ket said. “But then again they might do so given how po­lar­ized the cham­ber has be­come. It’s hard to main­tain a sys­tem like the fil­i­buster where you give a mi­nor­ity party a lot of power in such a po­lar­ized en­vi­ron­ment.”

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