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Neil Gorsuch Must Answer the Questions Merrick Garland Was Denied

Democrats should require Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee to respond to basic questions about his judicial philosophy and views on past cases.

March 8, 2017

Cross-posted at The American Prospect.

This is what the GOP push to confirm Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s far-right nominee for the Supreme Court, has come to: An Instagram video posted by the Senate Republican Conference shows the 49-year-old federal Circuit Court of Appeals judge stopping to pet an adorable Shih Tzu while on his Capitol Hill rounds. The caption: “One more reason you’ll love Judge Gorsuch. He loves dogs.”

Funny, perhaps, and cuddly—but also emblematic of Republicans’ artful but misleading push to “normalize” Trump’s very right-wing choice in advance of his Senate confirmation hearings, which begin on March 20. It’s all part of a full court press to install Gorsuch in the Supreme Court seat that Republicans effectively stole from Barack Obama with their unprecedented refusal to even consider his nominee, Merrick Garland, another widely respected—and far more moderate—federal judge. Obama had tapped Garland to fill the vacancy created by Antonin Scalia’s death a little more than a year ago.

The operative Republican strategy to date has been to focus attention on Gorsuch’s indisputable smarts, professional competence, impeccable academic credentials, and personal likeability—shifting attention from the less appealing qualities that won the favor of Trump and his Federalist Society vetters—namely, Gorsuch’s extremely conservative judicial record and philosophy. The idea is to portray Gorsuch, an originalist like Scalia, as an unthreatening “mainstream” choice.

“I don’t think folks on the left should be concerned about Judge Gorsuch becoming a Supreme Court justice,” a former Gorsuch clerk and employee of the Obama Justice Department assures viewers in one of the television ads Republican groups are running to move public opinion and squeeze pro-Gorsuch votes out of Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2018 in states Trump carried last year. No hint in those commercials that, if elevated, Gorsuch would fall to the right of all current justices except Clarence Thomas, according to educated assessments—bad news for women defending abortion and contraception access, public-sector unions, voting rights advocates, environmentalists, opponents of Citizens United and secret big money, and for those combatting anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Read the full article at The American Prospect

The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the Brennan Center for Justice.