WASHINGTON, April 7, 2017 – The Senate confirmed 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch for a position on the Supreme Court today, filling the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago.
The 54-45 vote in favor of the conservative jurist came after Senate Republicans used the “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules in order to stop a Democratic filibuster, clearing the way for the vote on Gorsuch, a Scalia admirer who shares the late justice’s view that the Constitution should be interpreted as literally as possible – often called “originalism.”
Three Democrats joined Republicans in voting for Gorsuch: Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. All Republicans voted for him with the exception of Jonny Isakson of Georgia, who could not cast a vote because he is recovering from back surgery, according to SCOTUSBlog.
Most Democrats were not happy with the Gorsuch nomination. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Gorsuch’s refusal to answer specific questions showed he did not have the independence necessary to serve on the high court.
In particular, Gorsuch has been critical of the Chevron doctrine, named after a 33-year-old Supreme Court opinion that essentially says courts have to defer to agency interpretations of ambiguous laws.
Major farm groups had supported the nomination. After the vote, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said Gorsuch “has demonstrated time and again that his only goal is to faithfully apply the Constitution and the laws as written by Congress. This is essential to America’s farmers and ranchers as cases affecting their very ability to produce food and fiber reach the nation’s highest court.”
Gorsuch’s confirmation “should restore our trust in the nation’s highest court to restore constitutional limits to government that has too often run roughshod over them,” Duvall added.
“He’s basically Scalia 2.0,” Scott Yager, environmental counsel of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said this week before the vote on “Beltway Beef.” “He shares Scalia’s preference for clear legal rules over vague standards.”
“Having Gorsuch on the Supreme Court would be very good for cattle producers,” Yager continued. “He wants to narrow deference given to the agencies in how they interpret their regulations.”
Farm-state senators also were pleased.
“Judge Gorsuch will make an extraordinary Supreme Court justice,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said. “He has had an outstanding judicial record and is highly respected and supported by individuals in the judicial community who align on all sides of the political spectrum.”
Noting that Kansas is one of the states in the 10th Circuit, where Gorsuch served for 11 years, Roberts said, “Our state has seen firsthand that he is a judge who follows the law and applies the text of the Constitution and statutes impartially. I am confident Judge Gorsuch will carry on the tradition of Justice Scalia and uphold the values of the Constitution to the highest standard.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on the Senate floor that by “faithfully enforcing the boundaries among branches of the government and the power of the federal government in our lives, (Gorsuch) will ensure that the law protects our liberties.”
South Dakota Republican John Thune said Gorsuch “is known for his impartiality and commitment to the rule of law. He is a jurist with a distinguished career who understands that the job of a judge is to apply the law as it is written, even when he disagrees with it. Judge Gorsuch is the kind of judge all of us should want on the nation’s highest court, and I wish him the best as he begins this next chapter in his judicial career.”
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