DeBella: Confirmed, at Last

Neil Gorsuch meets with Senator Claire McCaskill in 2017. (Unmodified photo by Senator Claire McCaskill used under a Creative Commons license.

On April 6, 2017 the infamous “nuclear option” was invoked in the Senate, thus allowing for the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, now Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Despite Justice Gorsuch’s respectable record, brilliant legal mind, and reputation as a moderate whose decisions are guided by the law rather than partisanship, Democrats had decided to filibuster his nomination. Once again living up to their unspoken promise of stonewalling all of the president’s actions.

This “nuclear option” allowed the Democratic filibuster to be broken by Republicans, as it allows the filibusters of Supreme Court nominees to be broken by a simple fifty-one majority rather than the normal supermajority of sixty required votes.

This option was previously used by then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, in 2013 in order to approve President Obama’s appointments of lower court and executive branch nominees.

Many Republicans were pleased with President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Justice Gorsuch for his undeniable qualifications, adherence to textualism, similarities to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and his young age of forty-nine.

Justice Gorsuch’s educational record speaks for itself, with a degree in political science from Columbia University, a law degree from Harvard, and a doctorate in legal philosophy from Oxford University.

In addition to Gorsuch’s impressive educational record, his career in the legal field has proven him as a level-headed interpreter of the Constitution. After working at a law firm in DC and then at the Department of Justice, he was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in 2006 by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by both Democrats and Republicans.

During Justice Gorsuch’s time as a 10th Circuit Judge, two of his most prominent cases were Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, both involving religious liberties. These cases proved then-Judge Gorsuch to be an “ardent defender of religious liberties.”

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch concurred with his fellow 10th Circuit judges that “Religious Freedom Restoration Act should prevent the federal government from imposing the Affordable Care Act’s regulatory contraceptives mandate on a particular family-owned business contrary to its religious principles,” a decision that was later vindicated by the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch said in his ruling that, “religious liberty statutes like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ‘anticipated that (their) solicitude for religious exercise must sometimes yield to other competing state interest.”

The 10th Circuit of Appeals denied a rehearing of The Little Sisters of the Poor’s court case. This religious group had opposed the federal mandate to provide contraceptives to their employees. Judge Gorsuch, however, dissented from the court’s denial to rehear the Little Sisters’ case.

The dissent said that, “when a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.” The Supreme Court somewhat vindicate Judge Gorsuch’s dissent by vacating the ruling and sending the case back to the lower courts.

Throughout the years, newly confirmed Justice Gorsuch has shown himself to be an upholder of constitutionally granted freedoms with a strong foundation in the legal field and a mind for responsible decision making guided by the law. Considering Justice Gorsuch’s young age, he is likely to be on the court for many years to come.

With Republicans delighted to see this new addition to the Supreme Court many are eager to hear the decisions to come from this now-full-membered court.

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