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Outsiders vs. Insiders: How Republicans can use the good name of Gorsuch to keep the Senate

If you were to pick a thousand Republicans at random and ask them their primary reason for voting Donald Trump on Election Day 2016, you’d invariably get a great many responses.

“To Make America Great Again” would be a popular one; “To build his big beautiful wall and deport all the illegal Gorsuch swearing inaliens” might be another; “To drain the swamp” would be a third, and “He’s a rich guy who won’t take any crap from the DC establishment and he knows how to create jobs” a likely fourth. How about “To lock her up!”

Then there’s the crux of the matter, “Because I didn’t trust Hillary Clinton to appoint the next Supreme Court justice.”

Post-election polls showed a high percentage of Trump voters despised the notion of an ideologically driven leftist like Hillary being handed the keys to a potential Supreme Court majority so much that they took a chance on an outsider. Everyone knew if Hillary won then every liberal social cause from here to West Hollywood would be enshrined in the Constitution and perhaps even etched into the marble walls of the Supreme Court chamber.

How bad would it be? We can only speculate…marijuana would not only be federally legalized it would be budgeted and distributed as a therapy elixir for the ultra-sensitive snowflake generation; Christians would be barred from wearing crosses, preaching their faith or publicly confessing they believed in Christ lest someone of another religion take offense, and, last but not least, transgenders would not only have access to opposite sex bathrooms -- businesses would be required to build them separate facilities.

Who knows… with the looney left it could happen, right?

Perhaps for this reason conservatives are giddy about the prospect of Justice Neil Gorsuch. Invariably whenever conservatives spell out what they like most about Trump, Gorsuch’s name is near the top of the list. Melissa Quinn of the Washington Examiner reported, “Though still early in his tenure on the high court, conservatives have much to cheer about Gorsuch, an originalist and textualist who they hoped would be in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat Gorsuch filled...

“With a decade-long record as a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch’s nomination pleased conservatives. And now one year since he was sworn in, Republicans are largely in agreement that the newest justice has met their expectations.

“’Trump made a promise to appoint someone in the mold of Justice Scalia, and from what we’ve seen, that’s exactly what he did,’ said Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network. ‘All of those principles he’s talked about — the commitment to the Constitution, the text of the law and not overstepping the text of the law — those are pages right out of Justice Scalia’s own approach to the law, and that’s something we’ve seen from him since he started as well.’”

Quinn’s article includes several quotes from those thrilled with Gorsuch and also adds a few gripes from liberals distraught over how the newest justice has turned out to be “just as bad” as they predicted, citing Gorsuch’s support for Trump’s travel ban, his 100 percent correlation with Justice Clarence Thomas’s voting record and his supposed opposition to the LGBTQ agenda as reasons for disliking the man.

Critics also said Gorsuch (like Scalia) badgers presenting attorneys from the bench and is too active in partisan politics for comfort. Lastly, they suggested Gorsuch isn’t well liked by his colleagues. Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg apparently made a remark recently that was interpreted as a slap at Gorsuch, “I respect all of my colleagues and genuinely like most of them.”

Even if Ginsburg -- who is notorious for producing off-the-wall soundbites -- meant to poke at Gorsuch with the comment, who’s to say it’s better to be genuinely liked than respected?

It could be argued no one but the justices themselves (and maybe their law clerks) truly understands the closed-in and isolated nature of being a Supreme Court justice. Think about it; unlike your conventional politician who meets gobs of people every day, receives free grub at various political events and is always sought out for an opinion by the media, the men and women in long black robes lead a highly sheltered life in the building across from the capitol.

Oral arguments for cases typically last only an hour and there isn’t any time allotted for social intermixing with the outsiders – a simple greeting is about all justices get. The attorneys arguing the cases are also likely scared to death one of the justices will ask him or her about a major hole in their case. It’s a very stressful job being feared rather than adored.

All things considered Gorsuch takes to it quite well. While it’s probably true no one will ever completely fill the shoes of Antonin “Nino” Scalia, Gorsuch seems like a good man who isn’t afraid to be seen publicly and doesn’t care about what the naysayers complain concerning him.

The first anniversary of Gorsuch’s swearing-in to the Supreme Court passed on Tuesday with little fanfare. Memories fade of the difficulties the slim Republican senate majority encountered when trying to push the Colorado judge through the process. You will recall Democrats deployed every procedural trick in the book to defeat Gorsuch, even recommending his nomination be withdrawn so President Trump could replace him with a “compromise” candidate who might earn the votes of the necessary (under filibuster rules) 60 senators.

The series of events led Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “nuke” the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Now, a year later, the Republican senate caucus is considering similar measures to speed Trump’s judicial and administration nominees through the hopelessly stalled process.

Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner reported, “Senate Republicans, frustrated by delaying tactics imposed by Democrats on President Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees, are on the verge of altering the Senate rules in order to speed up the process.

“GOP lawmakers told the Washington Examiner Tuesday that momentum is building for a change in the Senate rules that would shorten the time frame allowed for lawmakers to debate each nominee.

“One proposal by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., would reinstate a temporary rules change made by Democrats in 2013 that reduced debate time from 30 hours to eight hours for most executive branch nominations and from 30 hours to two hours for lower judicial branch nominations.”

In addition, according to Senator Tim Scott, there’s another proposal at hand to actually require senators to engage in floor debate rather than merely setting the time clock in motion. Can you imagine Democrats scrambling to round up sacrificial lambs to waste precious hours blabbering on about a nominee (or something else) who eventually is going to pass near-unanimously?

Limiting the Democrats’ stalling time is just one reform that would improve the system. Over the years both parties abused the rules to get what they wanted but statistically speaking the problem is much worse under Trump. The current president’s nominees take an average of almost three months (84 days) to confirm compared with a little over two months (65 days) for Obama’s. George W. Bush’s appointees took 43 days -- so in just a little over a decade the time basically doubled. Meanwhile, many of Obama’s personnel are still steering the ship of numerous executive departments well over a year after the smooth-talking Democrat left the White House.

Many people in the inauguration crowd happily waved at Obama as he took his final helicopter ride around Washington after Trump’s swearing-in last January 20. Who would’ve figured that today, fifteen months later, so many of the president’s key appointees are stewing in limbo waiting for their name to be called by the senate?

The Democrats are proving to be very good at a few things -- namely obstruction and forcing the almost intractable Mitch McConnell to consider changing ancient rules that no longer make sense in today’s technology driven fast-paced world. It used to be lawmakers required time to conduct paper-based research and to compile learned opinions on matters before Congress. Now that practically everything is available at the push a few buttons on a smart phone, why does it take so long for politicians to make up their minds on confirming nominees?

Of course Trump’s begged McConnell numerous times to go ahead and “nuke” the filibuster for legislation, too. It’s an attractive sounding proposition, but the Majority Leader likely wouldn’t even be able to secure fifty votes for this type of rule change proposal. There are far too many stodgy parliamentarian traditionalists on the Republican side who wouldn’t support such a move (like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, to name two). Needless to say, Democrats want their stalling and filibustering too.

Regardless, Democrats will have to offer something other than ignoble obstruction to survive beyond this year’s midterms. Jonah Goldberg wrote at National Review, “It’s remarkable how Democrats call GOP ideas tired and outdated yet keep returning to a well that was dug four years after the invention of sliced bread. At the rollout of a Better Deal, Pelosi said it is ‘founded on strong values that we share. Strong values fueled by fresh ideas.’…

“There are many reasons the Democrats remain a cargo cult to the New Deal, but the most important one for this moment is that the approach unifies not Democratic voters but Democratic politicians. The FDR coalition is a relic. The coalition the Democrats want is shot through with divisions. The Better Deal gives Democratic pols something to talk about that won’t rile one faction or another.

“That may be good enough to win the 2018 midterm elections, because all they really need is some boilerplate to rely on as they ride an anti-Trump wave. But the time will come when it won’t be enough. The disruption is coming. They can help shape it, or they await a destroyer not of their own choosing.”

Given Goldberg’s #NeverTrump leanings it was refreshing to see him unleash his considerable critical powers on the opposition this time. Trump’s presidency has been defined by action; he’s a doer, not a guy who lives off the taxpayer dole just so he can reside in the most expensive public housing of all, the White House.

And Goldberg’s right, when it’s broken down the Democrat platform is little more than a modern rehash of FDR’s New Deal – including a hegemonic federal government assuming a regulatory role it was never constitutionally intended to possess. The Department of Education is a good example of how the federal beast has grown out of control; did the Founding Fathers intend for central authority over local decisions on curriculum? How about school lunches?

Despite the lack of an opposition agenda McConnell raised the alarm on the GOP’s chances of holding its senate majority. Josh Kraushaar reported at National Journal, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t break much news when he acknowledged that Republicans are facing the possibility of a major wave election threatening their congressional majorities. But his public statement was an unmistakable sign that he considers the GOP’s Senate majority, once seen as untouchable because of the historically favorable map, under serious threat as President Trump’s political troubles worsen.

“Leading GOP Senate strategists now worry that Democrats won’t necessarily need a perfect storm to net the two seats necessary to win back a majority—just enough lackluster GOP campaigns and a little bad luck along the way. And while Republicans celebrated Gov. Rick Scott’s long-anticipated entrance into the Florida Senate race on Monday, they are clear-eyed about the underwhelming caliber of their candidates in many other critical races.”

McConnell may have just been raising a red flag to rouse the slumbering GOP base. We’ll see.

Republicans have a number of things to run on this year if they’d only use them. The Supreme Court vacancy (which led to Justice Neil Gorsuch) was a good reason to vote Trump in 2016; confirming more of Trump’s appointments will be strong incentive to vote for GOP senators in 2018, too.

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