Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominations are always great theater.
The hearings for Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas are epic — but all are memorable.
A lot rides on the outcome of these hearings, with lifetime appointments to the high court and the enormous power they carry hanging in the balance.
As the confirmation hearings for U.S. Judge Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice took place last week, it was clear that the Democrats had done exhaustive research trying to come up with something — anything — scandalous or untoward in Gorsuch’s background that would embarrass, if not disqualify him.
It was quickly evident they had nothing.
In their understandable frustration, Senate Democrats then took pages from their usual — and totally predictable — playbook.
They accused Gorsuch of "favoring big corporations over the little guy."
Of course when the few cases they cited as evidence of his alleged bias were more closely examined it turned out that many of them had been unanimous opinions.
When that didn’t work they tried another tack.
They tried to get the judge to declare how he’d rule in a series of hypothetical questions they posed to him. He didn’t take the bait. He did the right thing and what every U.S. Supreme Court nominee has routinely done.
That left the Democrats with only one option — to criticize Gorsuch not for what he’s said and done over his many years as a federal appellate judge, but for what he wouldn’t say during his confirmation hearings.
Gorsuch wasn’t touched by their desperate attempts to get a piece of him.
Of all the nominees in recent memory, he was not only the most unflappable, but the most prepared. His mastery of constitutional law and history was unequaled.
Those watching saw a brilliant lawyer, a fair and impartial judge, and a man exceptionally comfortable in his own skin.
Gorsuch was unpretentious and introspective, consistently evidencing a compassionate soul and an ability to laugh at himself. He was the embodiment of judicial temperament.
One of the interesting side notes of his hearing was a little dust-upon with U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. who was the textbook definition of "snarky" in his questioning.
He had "corrected" the judge, claiming that Gorsuch had failed to recall from memory the exact year the Federal Arbitration Act was passed (as if it mattered).
Franken later asked for 30 seconds to correct the record, acknowledging in one of his rare moments of graciousness, that Gorsuch’s memory had been correct while his own notes had been wrong.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wryly observed, "That doesn’t happen very often around here."
Gorsuch’s tour de force performance should not have come as a surprise. He was, after all, confirmed by a voice vote, meaning that his was a non-controversial nomination to the court of appeals a decade ago.
Included in those voices were those of Senate Minority Leader. Chuck Schumer, of New York, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democratic member.
Schumer and his Democratic allies are in a tight box — one of their own making.
They’ve positioned themselves in ways that clearly demonstrate that the far-left elements in their party are driving their strategic thinking.
"Resistance" to anything the Trump administration or Republican Congress want to do is the by-word of the far-left progressives.
When President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch it took less than a minute for Schumer to release a statement opposing him.
That meant that he had similar statements prepared for any Trump nominee to the high court. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who left his moderate moorings years ago and has steadily drifted leftward, announced last week that he will vote against Gorsuch.
His ostensible reason was that he has "serious concerns about [his] rigid judicial philosophy."
Gorsuch’s unflinching dedication to the Constitution was on full display all week.
So was his firm denial of attempts to get him to wonder into lawmaking from the bench.
Gorsuch is a "textualist" and an "originalist," much like the man whose seat he will fill, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. That means that he will interpret the Constitution as it was written.
Throughout the week Gorsuch reminded senators that he believes the law is no respecter of persons. He consistently set forth the fact that his role as a judge is to interpret the law not write it.
Many times he reminded senators that they could change the law but that it wasn’t his job, or any other judge’s to do.
The underlying truth of this debate is that Gorsuch will be confirmed.
It’s still possible, although difficult, to get eight Democrats to break ranks with Schumer and forestall his threatened filibuster.
If that doesn’t happen, Senate Republicans are prepared to do what Harry Reid did for all other federal judge confirmations and change the rules to require only a majority vote.
The real battle is over the next vacancy on the Court, most likely the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Schumer and company will have to come up with much more than they’ve hurled at Gorsuch if they want to prevail in that battle.
Charlie Gerow is a political analyst for Harrisburg's CBS affiliate, appearing weekly on its Sunday morning show, "Face the State," which is syndicated statewide. He serves as the first vice chair on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union. He is the CEO of Quantum Communications, a strategic communications and issue advocacy firm. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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