Gorsuch win Democrats’ loss
Schumer: Removing filibuster makes Senate ‘more partisan’
As President Trump fulfilled a campaign pledge Monday with the swearing-in of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the White House said the president has learned it’s virtually worthless to seek cooperation from Senate Democrats on judicial nominations.
“It basically showed the president that trying to work with Senate Democrats … was somewhat of a futile task,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.
At a sunny swearing-in ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Trump called on Justice Gorsuch to defend the Constitution instead of engaging in judicial activism. The president praised the newest member of the high court as a conservative in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he is filling.
“You’re now entrusted with the sacred duty of defending our Constutiton,” Mr. Trump told the nation’s 113th justice. “Our country is counting on you to be wise, impartial and fair — to serve under our laws, not over them, and to safeguard the right of the people to govern their own affairs.”
The president also told the 49-year-old jurist, “I have no doubt you will rise to the occasion, and the decisions you will make will not only protect our Constitution today, but for many generations of Americans to come.”
The newest justice thanked Mr. Trump for his “great confidence and trust,” and said he will do everything in his power to be a “faithful servant” of the Constitution.
To the family of Justice Scalia, Justice Gorsuch added, “I won’t ever forget that the seat I inherit today is that of a very, very great man.”
The lifetime appointment restores the conservative majority on the nine-member Court following the death of Scalia in February 2016.
The filling of the Supreme Court vacancy is arguably Mr. Trump’s most significant achievement in the first 81 days of his presidency, which has been marked by a serious legislative stumble on health care and a series of setbacks in court for his travel and refugee limits.
The audience at the swearing-in, filled with friends and colleagues of Justice Gorsuch and all eight sitting Supreme Court justices, laughed when the president added, “And I got it done in the first 100 days! You think that’s easy?”
The justice’s confirmation was relatively smooth, but it wasn’t easy. While Democrats didn’t raise any truly damaging objections to Justice Gorsuch’s background or his rulings, they still mustered enough opposition to mount a filibuster.
Senate Republican leaders, in turn, invoked the so-called “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules last week to allow the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the customary 60 votes.
White House aides say one of the lessons learned from the Gorsuch nomination battle is that Mr. Trump is essentially wasting his time seeking Democratic support for judicial nominees.
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump issued a list of 21 judges who he said he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court, including then-Judge Gorusch. He promised to “appoint justices who, like Justice Scalia, will protect our liberty with the highest regard for the Constitution.”
Mr. Trump received credit from some observers for transparency with the unusual move. But in the end, it didn’t matter. In the confirmation vote of 54-45, only three Senate Democrats voted for Justice Gorsuch: Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
“These were people that made up their minds by and large, regardless of who the person was, that ‘We’re going to vote it down,’ ” Mr. Spicer said of the Senate Democrats who voted against the nominee. “That would probably [be] the biggest lesson. But it also shows that when you’ve got the right individual, you’ve got someone who’s eminently qualified, we’re going to succeed in getting them” confirmed.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York has said that Republicans eliminating the filibuster “will make this body a more partisan place” and also “will make the Supreme Court a more partisan place.”
But former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said his own party has “far dirtier hands” when it comes to changing Senate rules on nominees.
In a podcast interview with Real Clear Politics, Mr. Daschle noted that Senate Democrats did away with the filibuster for judicial nominees below the level of the Supreme Court during President Obama’s second term.
“Unfortunately, Democrats have far dirtier hands when it comes to erosion of the institutional pillars of the Senate,” he said. “Democrats who may lament this institutional deterioration, I think there’s a lot of history here that can’t be explained away.”
Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy administers the judicial oath to Neil Gorsuch while his wife, Marie Louise Gorsuch, holds the bible. Despite President Trump’s win in the divisive confirmation process, many predict that the Democrats will continue to stonewall against the president’s future judicial picks.