Ground Game

Gorsuch and the forgotten Supreme Court nomination process

President Donald Trump delivered remarks before Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy (R) administered the judical oath.
President Donald Trump delivered remarks before Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy (R) administered the judical oath. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Neil Gorsuch became the 113th justice of the United States Supreme Court on Monday, capping what was almost a forgotten nomination process in the shadow of a relentless news cycle.

In recent years Supreme Court nomination battles have been a very big deal in Washington, D.C. They often involve large amounts of money from advocates on both sides looking to sway public opinion. Along with the nomination, there are breathless profiles and deep investigations of the nominee that can drive cable news chatter for weeks.

But Gorsuch's confirmation was basically an underground process, especially as it related to Gorsuch himself. This probably wasn't by design: almost every day the news cycles was focused on something else.


When Trump nominated Gorsuch in January, the president was reacting to the news cycle. After days of protests and negative court rulings on his first travel ban, Trump decided to announce Gorsuch two days earlier than originally planned. As you might recall, he also attempted to create suspense over his pick, which he announced in prime time.

As the newly minted nominee, Gorsuch got about one day of major coverage. By the next evening, another story was dominating the news -- how badly some phone calls went between Trump and the Australian prime minister and the Mexican president. Gorsuch moved to the back burner for a while.

On the same Monday morning when his nomination hearings began in the US Senate Judiciary Committee, there was another hearing on Capitol Hill hosted by the US House intelligence Committee that received wall-to-wall coverage. That was the hearing in which FBI Director James Comey announced his organization has been conducting an investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign.

Gorsuch briefly claimed the spotlight later that week after a marathon second day of questioning on Capitol Hill. But by Wednesday, it was clear that the GOP's health care bill to replace Obamacare was falling apart -- and that was dominating the news cycle instead (the bill died by Friday).


As the Senate headed toward a vote on Gorsuch, questions were raised -- not about him, but about the chamber's rules. Would the US Senate change its rules to confirm Gorsuch, and what does that say about the US Senate? The discussion was not about what Gorsuch's all-but-confirmed nomination would do to the high court.

Then it's only fitting, perhaps, that that the US Senate confirmed Gorsuch on Friday. It was only a few hours before the US launched a missile attack on Syria.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics: http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp