Opinion

Eric Fehrnstrom

Republicans should approve Gorsuch on a simple majority vote

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil M. Gorsuch speaks as US President Donald Trump looks on in the East Room of the of White House, January 31, 2017. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Abaca(Sipa via AP Images)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks as President Donald Trump looks on at the White House Tuesday.

In Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump has an impeccably qualified Supreme Court nominee that not only allows him to put his rocky start in office behind him, but also unite a Republican party that is suddenly reminded of the reason why it supported Trump for president in the first place.

And with Democrats like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey announcing their opposition before a hearing is even held, Senate Republicans should not hesitate to sidestep a potential filibuster by passing Gorsuch’s nomination on a simple majority vote. The days of “gentlemen’s club” rules are over.

Knowing the bruising ordeal that lies ahead, it was difficult not to feel sympathy for Gorsuch and his wife, Marie, as they stood next to Trump at Tuesday night’s prime-time news conference introducing him to the nation.

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Democrats are going to find it hard to explain how it was when Gorsuch last came before the Senate in 2006 for a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, he was confirmed unanimously, 95-0. Harder still is making the case on how the balance on the high court shifts if a conservative jurist like Gorsuch replaces the late Antonin Scalia, also a conservative.

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Catholics and evangelicals who supported Trump over Hillary Clinton are going to especially like Gorsuch for his Scalia-like defense of religious freedom. Gorsuch backed the famous Hobby Lobby challenge to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. He has also argued that religious expression in public spaces is constitutionally protected.

While he has not ruled on any abortion cases as a judge, Gorsuch wrote a book making the case against the legalization of assisted suicide in which he said “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

For those reasons and simply because of the partisan killing field that Washington has become, Gorsuch can count on the Democrats to engage in obstruction and delay, despite his sterling reputation and glowing resume, the law degree from Harvard, and a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford.

A harbinger of the ill will he faces is that Trump, through the end of January, had the fewest Cabinet nominees confirmed of any president in the last 40 years. No matter how Democrats feel about Trump, he has the right to assemble a Cabinet of his own choosing.

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By the same time in 2009, President Obama had 14 confirmed Cabinet nominees. President Bush in 2001 had 15. Trump? Just four. Barely enough to organize a tea party in a dollhouse.

Complicating matters are the hard feelings left over from Obama’s 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland, which gathered dust because the GOP refused to take it up in a presidential election year. This is not a presidential election year, but that will not stop Democrats from playing tit for tat.

Republicans have a 52-seat majority, so they’ll need to win over at least eight Democrats to break a filibuster. But if not, they should just take a page from the Democrat playbook.

In 2013, when the Democrats last had the majority, they did away with the 60-vote threshold for all executive and judicial appointments except the Supreme Court. But what is the reason for keeping that fig leaf in place? Does anyone doubt that if Democrats had 51 votes for Garland last year they would not have triggered the “nuclear option” for the Supreme Court?

Winning the confirmation battle for his first Supreme Court pick will give Trump an important political victory. Republicans in the Senate should use whatever means necessary to get the job done.

Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.