Wake Up To Politics - Feburary 1, 2017
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
647 Days until Election Day 2018
1,375 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
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Need to Know: Trump Taps Gorsuch for Supreme Court
- President Donald Trump nominated Colorado-based federal appeals judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, deciding to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia's death a year ago with a jurist similar in ideology to the late justice.
- Gorsuch, 49, has a sparkling resumé: degrees from Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford; clerkships for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy; and Deputy Associate Attorney General in George W. Bush's Justice Department until he was appointed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. The judge strikes a balance between Western judge and Washington insider, having been born in Denver (where he is now based) but raised in Washington (where his legal career started) while his mother served as Administrator of the EPA under Ronald Reagan.
- His conservative credentials are unquestioned. Gorsuch is known to practice originalism, interpreting the Constitution as it was written, which Scalia promoted in his three decades on the court. Gorsuch is best known for his opinions on religious freedom, especially in a 2013 challenge to an Obamacare provision requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. He sided with the company suing, Hobby Lobby Stores, in a ruling later upheld by the Supreme Court.
- Announcing his nomination in a prime-time White House ceremony, President Trump said Gorsuch has "outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, [and] tremendous discipline." Trump added that Gorsuch is "a man who our country really needs, and needs badly, to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice."
- Gorsuch's conservative ideology means he will have no trouble receiving support from Republicans; many GOP senators who have criticized President Trump in the past, including Ben Sasse (NE), Lindsey Graham (SC), John McCain (AZ), and Jeff Flake (AZ), have all praised the nomination. Although he was confirmed 96-0 to his current post, Gorsuch is unlikely to receive such bipartisan support this time: Democrats stand ready to filibuster Gorsuch, which would force Republicans to find 60 votes in favor of the judge - or use a procedural mechanism to end filibusters for Supreme Court nominees.
- Some Senate Democrats are calling for Gorsuch to be treated like former President Barack Obama's nominee for the seat, Judge Merrick Garland, who was not given a hearing or vote by the Republican majority. Gorsuch is likely to get an up-or-down vote, and confirmation (eventually) - but Democrats will spend the upcoming weeks grilling the judge on many comments and actions made by President Trump.
- In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said: "The burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans." Schumer also made clear his plans to filibuster the nomination, stating that "the Senate must insist upon 60 votes for any Supreme Court nominee." To meet the 60-vote threshold needed to end a filibuster, at least eight Democrats will need to support the nominee (although the nuclear option, ending the ability to filibuster Supreme Court picks, remains on the table for Republicans).
- While Gorsuch is conservative, he is not divisive or inexperienced, which will make Democratic opposition of him harder. Speaking after Trump at the White House on Tuesday, the judge remained humble. "Standing here in a house of history, and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge that if I am confirmed I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country," Gorsuch said.
- As the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years, Gorsuch would likely have a major impact on the bench for decades. Right now, his confirmation would just mean a return to the 5-4 split between conservatives and liberals that the Court had before Scalia died; however, if swing vote Anthony Kennedy, 80, retires during the Trump Administration, conservatives would dominate the Court. Some have speculated that Trump's selection of his former clerk for Scalia's seat could make Kennedy retiring under Trump more likely, giving the Justice confidence of who the President would pick in the future. Kennedy administered the oath of office to Gorsuch when he was sworn in at the Tenth Circuit, and the two are close.
- Gorsuch will be ushered through the confirmation process by former Sen, Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a onetime Trump critic who the President asked to offer assistance. Supreme Court confirmation is a months-long process, with the traditional first step being meetings with members of the Senate. The nominee begins that process today, sitting down with Leader McConnell, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence.
- At least five Senate Democrats have already announced opposition to Gorsuch's nomination: Elizabeth Warren (MA), Ed Markey (MA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Ron Wyden (OR), and Jeff Merkley (OR). However, seven Democrats (one less than the required eight) have announced plans to support Gorsuch in a procedural vote to block their colleague's filibuster, including ones who face re-election in 2018 in states won by President Trump: Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), Joe Manchin (WV), and Heidi Heitkamp (ND). they are joined by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (IL) and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Chris Coons (DE).
- McConnell hopes to have Gorsuch confirmed by late April, able to join the Court for the last cases of its current term.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule President Trump begins his day today at 9am, with a daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
- At 9:30am, Trump will hold a listening session with African-American leaders in the Roosevelt Room, launching the White House celebration of Black History Month.
- At 11:30am, the President will hold meetings related to the Supreme Court confirmation process.
- Finally, at 5:30am, he will participate in a "legislative affairs strategy session" in the Oval Office.
Capitol Hill News
- Today in Congress Both houses of Congress are in session.
- The Senate meets at 12pm today. After Leader remarks, the chamber will finish debate over Rex Tillerson's nomination to be Secretary of State. A final confirmation vote on Tillerson is expected to come at around 2:30pm. The former ExxonMobil CEO, controversial for his friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, will likely become the sixth member of the Trump Cabinet to be confirmed. Some Democrats are expected to support Tillerson; four voted for him in a procedural vote Monday: Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mark Warner (VA), Angus King (I-ME).
- At this point in Barack Obama's presidency, he had 14 Cabinet nominees confirmed; George W. Bush had 16. However, Senate Democrats continued to express their opposition to Trump's nominees and actions on Tuesday, boycotting a meeting of the Finance Committee to force a postponement in scheduled votes on Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin and HHS Secretary-designate Tom Price.
- Committee votes are scheduled today on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has been nominated to lead the Environmental protection Agency, and Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee David Shulkin.
- Meanwhile, the House will meet at 10am. The chamber is slated to vote on two bills striking down regulations implemented during the Obama Administration under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn Executive Branch rules. The regulations to be overturned today are the Stream Protection Rule, which "prohibits the coal industry from polluting the water sources near mines," according to The Hill, and the Cardin-Lugar Amendment, which requires "oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments they make to foreign governments for access to natural resources."
- Yesterday's Answer Tuesday's trivia question asked for the only Supreme Court nominee to be filibustered. The answer: Abe Fortas, who was serving as an Associate Justice on the court when Lyndon B. Johnson attempted to promote him to Chief Justice when the seat became available. Questioned over ethics dogged the nomination, and the Senate voted 45 to 43 in a cloture vote (with 12 Democrats not showing up). At the time, 67 senators were required to end a filibuster (more than today's 60), a threshold he could not overcome. Similar to the situation with this Supreme Court seat, Johnson nominated Fortas in June 1968, just five months before his successor would be elected. Richard Nixon ended up getting to appoint someone to the seat, choosing Warren Burger to serve as Chief Justice.
- Another ethics scandal would later cause Fortas to resign from the Supreme Court (where he was still an Associate Justice) in disgrace.
- GREAT JOB...Steve Gitnik, Scott Bennett, Janice Goodman, Thomas Alpert, and Steve Sheffey!
- Today's Question Continuing the Supreme Court theme...At 49, Gorsuch is them a youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years. Who was the youngest Supreme Court justice in history?
- Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your answer; correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!
*All Times Eastern
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.