Par­ties pleased with lead­ers in Gor­such con­fir­ma­tion fight.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX SWOYER

Repub­li­cans won the fight to con­firm Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such to the Supreme Court and Democrats lost — but both sides walked away happy with how their lead­ers per­formed on Capi­tol Hill, and said they’re ready for the next va­cancy.

“I’m al­ready plan­ning for another open­ing. I’m ready for round two and a po­ten­tial round three and all of the lower ju­di­cial courts,” said Mark Lu­cas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Con­cerned Veter­ans for Amer­ica, which was part of the con­ser­va­tive back­ing for Jus­tice Gor­such. “We’re ready to en­gage in other mul­ti­ple con­fir­ma­tions if those open­ings do oc­cur.”

Repub­li­cans, led by Sen. Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, had kept the Supreme Court seat va­cant for al­most all of 2016, re­fus­ing to act on Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of Judge Mer­rick Gar­land and in­stead say­ing the win­ner of the elec­tion should make the pick.

That meant Pres­i­dent Trump be­gan his term with a Supreme Court bat­tle, spark­ing a ma­jor fight on Capi­tol Hill that saw Democrats mount a fil­i­buster and Repub­li­cans use the “nu­clear op­tion” to change the rules, cur­tail the power of the fil­i­buster and in­stall Jus­tice Gor­such on the court.

Con­ser­va­tive groups said Mr. McCon­nell han­dled the fight well through­out.

“If you com­bine what he did on Gar­land with his sup­port of the ‘nu­clear op­tion,’ and his dis­in­ter­est in find­ing some com­pro­mise to avoid the ‘nu­clear op­tion,’ his stand­ing now with con­ser­va­tives is very high,” said Curt Levey, pres­i­dent of the Com­mit­tee for Jus­tice.

Mr. McCon­nell also won unan­i­mous sup­port from Repub­li­cans for the nu­clear op­tion — some­thing the GOP wasn’t able to do when it first con­tem­plated the strat­egy in 2005. But it was Democrats who pulled the trig­ger in 2013 to bar the use of the fil­i­buster in ev­ery other case of pres­i­den­tial ap­point­ments, whether to the lower fed­eral courts or the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

“Keep­ing the Repub­li­can se­na­tors in line is no small feat, and he ac­com­plished that with one of the most sig­nif­i­cant is­sues even for some­one with such a long and sto­ried ca­reer as his,” said Car­rie Sev­erino, chief coun­sel at the Ju­di­cial Cri­sis Net­work. “This is prob­a­bly one of the most sig­nif­i­cant things he will have ac­com­plished.”

Lib­eral groups, though, were just as happy with Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat, who man­aged to rally their party to fil­i­buster the Gor­such pick, forc­ing the rules change.

“I have to give an enor­mous, enor­mous amount of re­spect to Sen. Schumer, to rank­ing mem­ber Fe­in­stein — to re­ally the al­most the en­tire cau­cus — they made clear they were on the side of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” said Daniel Gold­berg, le­gal di­rec­tor at the pro­gres­sive Alliance for Jus­tice.

The lib­eral groups ap­plied in­tense pres­sure on rank-and-file Democrats, de­mand­ing they force the nu­clear show­down this year. Some Democrats had wanted to pre­serve the fil­i­buster op­tion for a fu­ture nom­i­nee, say­ing Judge Gor­such — who will fill the seat of the late Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia — wasn’t worth the fight be­cause he won’t tip the court bal­ance.

Mr. Levey said the lib­eral groups weren’t strate­gi­cally suc­cess­ful, de­spite prov­ing they can cap­ture the ear of Democrats in Congress.

“I think the proof is they got the Demo­cratic se­na­tors to do some­thing, which is oth­er­wise ir­ra­tional,” he said. “I guess if you get some­body to jump off a cliff, that’s a lot of in­flu­ence right there.”

The ef­fects of the rules change will be felt over the course of fu­ture nom­i­na­tions to the high court, now that the prospect of a par­ti­san fil­i­buster is off the ta­ble.

Marge Baker, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Peo­ple For the Amer­i­can Way, said she hopes the ground­work her or­ga­ni­za­tion did — in­clud­ing air­ing ads in six states — helped lib­er­als re­al­ize the im­por­tance of the Supreme Court. She said she hopes that will carry over to the next nom­i­na­tion fight.

Ms. Baker also said Repub­li­cans didn’t have to trig­ger the “nu­clear op­tion,” and said the fact that they did was “law­less­ness.”

“It may have some short term suc­cesses, but it doesn’t pre­vail in the end,” she said.


The bat­tle over Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such’s con­fir­ma­tion has in­spired lib­eral and con­ser­va­tive groups to pre­pare for fu­ture bat­tles on the bench.

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