The Republican Party and President Donald Trump have succeeded in a way that former President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats could not, filing the ninth and final seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that became vacant 14 months ago following the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
But while some political pundits remain critical of how the Republican-dominated Congress refused to even consider Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, robbing Obama of a right granted to a sitting president when any of the lifelong seats require a replacement, it’s the policy employed by the GOP, “the nuclear option,” that appears more troubling as it forever clears the way for all justices in the future to be confirmed without partisan support.
With Gorsuch becoming America’s 113th justice, the nation’s highest court has clearly experienced a pendulum swing, assuming a more conservative bent — an ideological shift that will undoubtedly play a significant role in cases involving voting rights, the separation of the church and state and gun rights.
Gorsuch will not, however, have an immediate impact on altering the decision of the majority that has recently led the court in a more liberal direction, upholding affirmative action, viewing same-sex marriage as an option protected by the Constitution and striking down laws that have limited women’s access to abortion.
The Gorsuch confirmation may have remained in indefinite limbo — a condition to which Garland unfortunately became acquainted — had Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) not previously refused to even grant Garland a hearing and most recently with Republicans subsequently winning the battle by voting as a bloc to eliminate the ability of the Senate minority to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.
Gorsuch, 49, has earned a reputation as a conservative during his tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Denver’s 10th Court and has been lauded by those supporting gun rights, antiabortionists and free-wielding entrepreneurs — at the same time being held in contempt by the nation’s unions, environmental supporters, feminists and most Black Congressmen that make up the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) as well as those who align themselves with the CBC and endorse their views.
As the court now prepares to hear cases including gun rights, whether businesses can refuse to service same-sex couples and a request from North Carolina which seeks to have an earlier decision that deemed the state’s more stringent voting restrictions as unconstitutional, the exact place where Gorsuch fits will become evident.
Further, whether Gorsuch will maintain his own voice or if he will lean in the direction of Trump, will quickly become clear when the court takes on the president’s highly controversial travel ban targeting certain immigrants from a specified list of countries as the proposal undergoes additional revisions as decreed in lower courts.
Gorsuch was confirmed last Friday, 54 to 45, the closest margin since Justice Clarence Thomas was approved over 25 years ago.
Now with four liberals and four primarily conservative justices, nominated by Democrats and Republicans, respectively, the court may very well reschedule hearings in cases previously ending in deadlock so that the newest justice can break the ties.