Right Hooks

Rule of Law Wins a Huge Victory

Other big winners are Gorsuch, Trump, McConnell, voters and, most importantly, our Constitution.

Nate Jackson · Apr. 7, 2017

Once Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to change the chamber’s rules so as to eliminate the filibuster for nominees to the Supreme Court, it was only a matter of time before Neil Gorsuch was confirmed. That vote happened today, and Gorsuch prevailed 54-45; he’ll be sworn in as the nation’s 113th justice on Monday. Three red-state Democrats — Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp — crossed the aisle to vote for him. It’s a great day for Gorsuch, of course, but also for President Donald Trump, who kept his campaign promise to nominate solid justices. Seeing the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat filled by an originalist is also a huge win for our Constitution.

As Mark Alexander wrote before the election in endorsing Trump, his reason was simple: He would vote “for the candidate who is most likely to nominate constitutionally constructionist judges to the Supreme Court, those who will promote Liberty over tyranny.” Indeed, that’s why millions of Americans sucked it up and voted for Trump. Those voters share in this victory too.

McConnell also deserves credit for standing firm against Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. There was no real precedent for him to follow in refusing to even grant hearings to Obama’s nominee, and we have no doubt Democrats will gladly expand this practice when the shoe is on the other foot. But the stakes were high — preserving the current 5-4 (relatively) conservative majority on the Court, or letting Obama remake it in his own image. McConnell chose the goal over the process, and he was refreshingly honest in saying so.

How did we get here? As Charles Krauthammer explains in an especially insightful column today, “A major reason these fights over Supreme Court nominations have become so bitter and unseemly is the stakes — the political stakes. The Supreme Court has become more than ever a superlegislature. From abortion to gay marriage, it has appropriated to itself the final word. It rules — and the normal democratic impulses, expressed through the elected branches, are henceforth stifled.”

Our Founders warned against that very thing. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1819, “The Constitution … is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”

Judges like Neil Gorsuch are a critical counterbalance to this activist trend. And now, disarmed of the filibuster because of their own hypocritical obstruction, Democrats may watch helplessly as the next Court nominee takes the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer.

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