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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Gorsuch is a Bipartisan Fit

February 13, 2017
Weekly Columns
Almost exactly one year ago, our nation lost a true defender of justice and a brilliant legal scholar. Many, including myself, were shocked at the news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had suddenly passed away. Sadly, his death profoundly shifted the balance of the Supreme Court. He was a stalwart pillar of constitutional principles, and his sound judgement on many critical issues helped shape American law. Before his untimely passing the court was usually, but not always, a 5-4 split with 4 reliably conservative votes, 4 reliably liberal votes and Justice Kennedy providing the swing vote that decided cases. The Scalia vacancy created a court that occasionally resulted in a 4-4 vote, effectively rendering the highest court in the land deadlocked.
Shortly after Justice Scalia’s death, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace him on the Supreme Court. President Obama cited his constitutional duty when he selected Judge Garland. But with less than a year left in President Obama’s term in office, a Supreme Court selection would have deprived the American people the opportunity to weigh in on the matter through the election of a new president
The Senate delayed any vote on Judge Garland last year in order to allow the voters to make the Supreme Court nomination a consideration in their selection of our next President. Despite the howls of protest from some quarters, the refusal to consider a Supreme Court nomination in the final year of a presidency has precedence. In fact, in 1992, then-Senator Joe Biden championed this approach to delay the vote on President George H.W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee the year he was leaving office. Twenty five years later, the stakes are still the same. Constitutionally, it may be the president’s prerogative to nominate a judge, but the Senate has no obligation to act upon on it.
President Trump’s selection of his first Supreme Court nominee was one of the most transparent in history. Last September, then candidate Trump took the unprecedented step of publicly releasing a list of judges who he would consider for the Supreme Court. Shortly after being inaugurated, President Trump quickly acted upon his promise to nominate a Justice whose philosophy and commitment to upholding the constitution closely mirrored that of Justice Scalia.
The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch is an excellent one. Furthermore, he’s a judge that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on because they already have. When President Bush nominated him the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in 2006, he was confirmed by the United States Senate by a voice vote – effectively making his confirmation unanimous. It’s interesting to note that the U.S. Senate that confirmed Judge Gorsuch in 2006 included Senators Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid and Barack Obama. They clearly found him well within the mainstream of judicial philosophy, so it’s baffling that Democrats in the current U.S. Senate would even question his suitability for the Supreme Court.
Judge Gorsuch’s credentials are impeccable, and he is more than qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. He is well within the judicial mainstream and like Justice Scalia, is a firm defender of our Constitution and will exercise the literal interpretation of our laws. Democrats that want to fight his nomination would be smart to not die on this particular hill. Judge Gorsuch is one of the most admired and respected judges on the federal circuit, and our nation and the Supreme Court will be well served by his sound judgement, along with his deep understanding and respect for the Constitution.