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Deciding on the fate of nominee Neil Gorsuch becoming a Supreme Court justice has increased the debate over voting among the opposing parties. With the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings ending, there is now the threat of invoking the nuclear option to give Gorsuch the win by a majority of Senate votes, instead of the currently required, 60.
As of April 3, 2017, it will be two weeks since the confirmation hearings debate officially began on Monday, March 20. In the first few hours of the hearings, senators battled over a president’s right to issue executive orders, as well as the blocking of President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland. It was over three hours of opening remarks by senators before Gorsuch finally had a chance to speak.
The judge thoughtfully addressed both sides by attempting to stress the importance of being unified. In line with witnessing the Republican versus Democrat debates, the nominee simply began with, “Long before we are Republicans or Democrats — we are Americans.”
Gorsuch Confronted by Divided Parties
The sharp party divide over feelings for the Supreme Court nominee was evident. Senate Republicans expressed their beliefs that he was truly qualified to judge independently of political and personal beliefs. Correspondingly, Senate Democrats remarked on the nominee’s unfeeling interpretation of the law, along with business ties, and regarding the history of what his judicial record showed.
Gorsuch incited even more of a debate as he attempted to sway away from giving direct answers to tough questions. Undoubtedly, Democrats wanted to know the judge’s views on many issues including abortion, guns, and even campaign laws regarding spending. In lieu of giving direct answers, the seemingly rattled Gorsuch remarked how he decides rulings for each case in a fair-minded manner based on the law.
“I have offered no promises on how I’d rule in any case to anyone, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for a judge to do so.”
President Donald Trump’s pick as the Supreme Court nominee was questioned about how he felt about the hostile remarks Trump had stated about federal judges who did not rule in his favor. In a cunning move, the nominee turned his answer into a statement, moving away from Trump’s disparaging pronouncements.
“When anyone criticizes the honesty, integrity or motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening, I find that demoralizing because I know the truth.”
The lawmakers followed up, asking Gorsuch, that if he had to make a ruling regarding Trump in a future situation, would he feel uncomfortable deciding to rule against the president. As if questioning his mantra, the judge stated several times, “No man is above the law.”
Gorsuch Faced Tough Interrogation
Surely, huge ongoing topics of debate between Republicans and Democrats regarding opinions on several laws were used to question the judge. Judiciary Committee Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Gorsuch for his views on several groundbreaking cases, which often deliberated. Certainly, Feinstein referred to Roe v. Wade; the 2000 election, deciding Bush v. Gore; the 2008 Heller ruling, permitting gun usage for self-defense; and the Citizens United decision, in 2010, giving corporations permission to spend freely in elections, without a cap.
Sidestepping the questions, Gorsuch cited that because of upcoming similar matters, which may be presented before the Supreme Court, he could not give an answer. Perhaps, at a hint that he would not mess with the Roe decision, the nominee stated, “It has been reaffirmed many times.”
Rhode Island Democrat, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse pushed the nominee to explain his feelings regarding the Citizens United decision. Specifically, the senator wanted to hear how the judge felt not knowing who contributed funds to promote his nomination since it was backed by groups using funds from undisclosed donors. Claiming some ignorance, Gorsuch remarked, “Senator, there’s a lot about the confirmation process today that I regret. A lot. A lot.”
As Whitehouse persisted in getting a direct answer, he insisted on an explanation from Gorsuch, asking if he is bothered by dark money groups. Seemingly distressed by the questioning, the Supreme Court nominee, deviated from giving a straight response. Instead, he put it back on Whitehouse and the rest of the senators, stating that, since the laws are made by the Senate, then it is up to them to pass a law allowing for more disclosure.
Gorsuch Vote May Lead to Filibustering
The 11-member Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Monday, April 3. With the committee having a GOP-majority of members, it is most likely that the nomination for Gorsuch will be approved to proceed to the Senate floor heading to a final vote on Friday, April 7. That is if a battle, of old west proportions, does not break out on the floor.
A hold up of a nomination, known as a filibuster, can be caused by a small minority of Senate members. Pursuant to that, with Republicans in the majority, holding 52 of the Senate seats, they need eight Democrats to side with them, to have the 60 votes required to end the debate and approve Gorsuch.
Last Thursday, March 30, two Democrats publicly announced that they are planning to vote for the Supreme Court nominee. With Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., and Sen. Joe Manchin, W.Va., casting votes for Trump’s pick. That leaves Republicans looking for six more Democrats to join them in approving Gorsuch as a Supreme Court judge. With that being unlikely, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, could insist on using the nuclear option to secure Trump’s Supreme Court pick’s approval.
Nuclear Option Showdown to Confirm Gorsuch Could Steer Change in Voting Laws
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has declared that he supports a filibuster. Although McConnell has not directly stated that he will invoke the nuclear option, he has made the declaration that he plans on getting the Senate’s full vote for confirming the nominee. In this case, McConnell could make history by invoking a rule change, to approve a new Supreme Court judge.
McConnell has the authority to plan a vote of nuclear proportions, that would alter the rule of balloting for a nominee for the Supreme Court. He simply must schedule a Senate vote in which he will need 51, or more, senators to agree to a change in ruling. With Republicans holding 52 seats and Democrats with 48, the nuclear option will allow for Gorsuch’s approval with just a majority of votes equaling 51, instead of the 60 currently required.
A nuclear option ruling could certainly change the course for altering future voting laws in the Senate and beyond. Perhaps calling for the nuclear option to approve a Supreme Court nominee is just the beginning for the course of shifting all voting for government officials.
With Trump garnering his presidential win with the majority of Electoral College votes, as opposed to Hillary Clinton achieving almost 3 million more in popular votes, voting has become a debate of nuclear proportions. Voters have spoken up demanding a fairer system. Just as using the nuclear option could give Gorsuch the confirmation to win the Supreme Court seat, it may be time for U.S. citizens to invoke the nuclear option when counting the votes in the next presidential election.
Opinion News by Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Cathy Milne
U.S. News: Senators’ Opening Statements Aren’t All About Gorsuch
CNN Politics: Gorsuch touts family, roots while Democrats revisit Garland snub
USA Today: Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch evades tough questions at confirmation hearing
KTLA: SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch Grilled on Trump Comments, Says ‘No Man Is Above the Law’
The Hill: Two Dems announce they’ll vote for Gorsuch
USA Today: Here’s why the Senate’s ‘nuclear option’ might be key to Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation
Featured and Top Image by The White House Courtesy of Wikimedia – Public Domain License