Day 59: Who is Neil Gorsuch?

Tomorrow, the Senate begins hearings on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

DAY 59 ACTION: Learn who Neil Gorsuch is, and his possible impact on the Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

There’s been a vacancy on the Supreme Court since February 13, 2016. The Senate Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, for nearly a year.

In late January, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace Supreme Court Justice Scalia (we talked about Scalia on Day 10). Senate hearings for this nominee begin tomorrow.

Justice Scalia died 13 months ago. So why is there still an open seat on the Supreme Court? Senate Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for nearly a year. Their refusal to hold a vote on Garland led to the longest Supreme Court vacancy in almost 50 years.

Gorsuch has been a federal judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit since 2006. He is a conservative originalist, which means he doesn’t think the Constitution is a living document that grows with the times, but must be interpreted as if we were still in 1789. In addition, Gorsuch only considers the language of the law he is asked to analyze, refusing to consider the purpose of a law, the legislators’ intent, or the context in which the law was passed.

Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby against President Obama’s requirement that businesses offer health care plans that cover contraception. He is considered anti-abortion. Gorsuch also rejects the notion that courts should defer to a law’s reading by expert agencies. This hostility could mean he will oppose rules protecting the environment. Of 20 judges on Trump’s “short list”, scholars believe only two are more conservative than Gorsuch

On the other hand, Gorsuch raised concerns when Trump criticized judges who have stayed his Muslim bans.

Democrats may block the Gorsuch nomination, because confirmation of a Supreme Court justice requires at least 60 votes. (That might change if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell uses the nuclear option and requires only 50 votes to confirm a Justice.) But if Gorsuch is confirmed, he would be an almost ‘like for like’ replacement for Scalia. This means the Court might maintain its current more left-leaning approach, although this may depend on Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s swing vote.

Today’s Action: Learn more about Neil Gorsuch and discuss whether he should be confirmed with friends. The ACLU prepared a more detailed report for those who are interested. Let us know what you think!


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