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Thune: Democrats Should Abandon Their Filibuster Campaign of Judge Gorsuch

“There has never been a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, and only Democrats have ever attempted one.”

March 28, 2017


U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Although Gorsuch has been widely considered a mainstream judge by both liberals and conservatives, some Senate Democrats have announced plans to filibuster his nomination. Thune called on Democrats to abandon their partisan strategy and confirm this well-qualified judge. 

Thune’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr.  President, last week the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

“Everything we heard from this nominee confirmed what has been clear from the beginning: Judge Gorsuch is the kind of judge all of us should want on the nation’s highest court.

“Judge Gorsuch obviously has a distinguished resume:

“He graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and went on to receive a doctorate in legal philosophy from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar.

“He clerked for two Supreme Court justices – Byron White and Anthony Kennedy.

“And he worked in both private practice and at the Justice Department before being nominated to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has served with distinction for 10 years.

“He is widely regarded as a brilliant and thoughtful jurist and a gifted writer whose opinions are known for their clarity.

“Most importantly, however, Judge Gorsuch understands the proper role of a judge.

“And that role is to interpret the law, not make the law.

“To judge, not legislate.

“To call balls and strikes, not rewrite the rules of the game.

“It’s great to have strong opinions.

“It’s great to have sympathy for causes or organizations.

“It’s great to have plans for fixing society’s problems.

“But none of those things has any business influencing your ruling when you sit on the bench.

“Your job as a judge is to apply the law as it is written.

“And here’s the fundamental thing – even when you disagree with it.

“‘A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge,’ Judge Gorsuch has said more than once.


“Because a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is likely making decisions based on something other than the law.

“And that’s a problem.

“Equal justice under the law, equal protection under the law – these principles become meaningless when judges step outside their role and start changing the meaning of the law to suit their feelings about a case or their personal opinions.

“Mr. President, Judge Gorsuch’s nomination has attracted support from both sides of the political spectrum.

“And I think the main reason for that is because both liberals and conservatives know that they can trust Judge Gorsuch to rule based on the plain text of the law, irrespective of his personal opinions.

“Here’s what Neal Katyal, an acting solicitor general for President Obama, had to say about Judge Gorsuch:

“‘I have no doubt that if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would help to restore confidence in the rule of law.

“‘His years on the bench reveal a commitment to judicial independence — a record that should give the American people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him.’ 

“The Colorado Springs Gazette recently highlighted a letter signed by 96 prominent Colorado lawyers and judges and sent to the senior senator from Colorado.

“Here’s what those individuals had to say about Judge Gorsuch:

“‘We hold a diverse set of political views as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

“‘Many of us have been critical of actions taken by President Trump.

“‘Nonetheless, we all agree that Judge Gorsuch is exceptionally well-qualified to join the Supreme Court.

“‘We know Judge Gorsuch to be a person of utmost character.

“‘He is fair, decent, and honest, both as a judge and a person.

“‘His record shows that he believes strongly in the independence of the judiciary.’

“A former law partner and friend of Judge Gorsuch – a friend who describes himself as, quote, ‘a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes’ – had this to say about the judge:

“‘Gorsuch’s approach to resolving legal problems as a lawyer and a judge embodies a reverence for our country’s values and legal system.

“‘The facts developed in a case matter to him; the legal rules established by legislatures and through precedent deserve deep respect; and the importance of treating litigants, counsel and colleagues with civility is deeply ingrained in him. …

“‘I have no doubt that I will disagree with some decisions that Gorsuch might render as a Supreme Court justice.

“‘Yet, my hope is to have justices on the bench such as Gorsuch … who approach cases with fairness and intellectual rigor, and who care about precedent and the limits of their roles as judges.’

“Again, Mr. President, that’s from a self-described ‘longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes.’

“During his years on the bench, Judge Gorsuch has had a number of law clerks. 

“On February 14, every one of Judge Gorsuch’s former clerks, except for two currently clerking at the Supreme Court, sent a letter on his nomination to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Here’s what they had to say:

“‘Our political views span the spectrum … But we are united in our view that Judge Gorsuch is an extraordinary judge.

“‘…Throughout his career, Judge Gorsuch has devoted himself to the rule of law. He believes firmly that the role of the judge in our democracy is to apply the laws made by the political branches — that is, to adhere to our Constitution and the statutes our elected representatives have enacted, and not to confuse those things with a judge’s own policy preferences.

“‘As law clerks who have worked at his side, we know that Judge Gorsuch never resolves a case by the light of his personal view of what the law should be. Nor does he ever bend the law to reach a particular result he desires.

“‘For Judge Gorsuch, a judge’s task is not to usurp the legislature’s role; it is to find and apply the law as written. That conviction, rooted in his respect for the separation of powers, makes him an exemplary candidate to serve on the nation’s highest court.’

“Again, Mr. President, that is the unanimous opinion of 39 of Judge Gorsuch’s former law clerks, whose political views, in their own words ‘span the spectrum.’

“Unfortunately, no amount of testimony in favor of Judge Gorsuch will ever be enough for some Senate Democrats. 

“The Senate minority leader took to the floor last week to announce his determination to oppose Judge Gorsuch’s nomination.

“He also announced his determination to push for a filibuster of Judge Gorsuch’s nomination.

“The minority leader’s reasons?

“Well, for starters, the minority leader apparently doesn’t trust that Judge Gorsuch will use the bench to implement the leader’s preferred policies.

“He disagrees with some of Judge Gorsuch’s decisions, and he apparently considers that sufficient grounds to bar Judge Gorsuch from the Supreme Court.

“The minority leader demonstrated little interest in whether Judge Gorsuch’s legal interpretations were correct.

“For the minority leader, judging is apparently about getting one’s preferred outcome – irrespective of what the law actually says.

“The minority leader also mentioned another reason for opposing Judge Gorsuch:

“He doesn’t trust the judge to be independent or impartial – even though liberals and conservatives alike have praised Judge Gorsuch’s independence and impartiality as two of his defining characteristics.

“The minority leader also made the laughable claim that Judge Gorsuch is somehow out of the judicial mainstream.

“Let me just quote the Wall Street Journal on this subject.

“In February, the Journal wrote, and I quote:

“‘Judge Gorsuch has written some 800 opinions since joining the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006.

“‘Only 1.75 percent (14 opinions) drew dissents from his colleagues.

“‘That makes 98% of his opinions unanimous even on a circuit where seven of the 12 active judges were appointed by Democratic Presidents and five by Republicans.’

“Let me just repeat that last line.

“‘That makes 98% of his opinions unanimous even on a circuit where seven of the 12 active judges were appointed by Democratic Presidents and five by Republicans.’

“‘I wonder, Mr. President, if the minority leader intended to suggest that the entire 10th Circuit is composed of extremist judges?

“Or that all the judges on the 10th Circuit lack impartiality or independence?

“Because logically speaking, if you’re going to suggest that Judge Gorsuch is an extremist, then you have to argue that his colleagues, who agreed with his opinions 98 percent of the time, are extremists too.

“Mr. President, the truth is, Democrat opposition to Judge Gorsuch has zero to do with whether or not Judge Gorsuch meets the qualifications of a Supreme Court justice.

“It’s obvious that the judge has all the qualifications one could want in a justice.

“No, Democrats are opposing Judge Gorsuch because they’re mad.

“They’re mad that their party didn’t win the presidential election.

“They’re mad that their party doesn’t have control of Congress.

“And they are mad that they are having to consider a judge nominated by a Republican president.

“It doesn’t matter how qualified Judge Gorsuch is, how impartial he is, how independent he is – some Democrats are just going to oppose him anyway.

“Mr. President, this isn’t the first time Judge Gorsuch has been before this body.

“Back in 2006, the Senate considered Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to the 10th Circuit. 

“At that time, the judge’s nomination sailed through the Senate.

“Both of his home-state senators – one a Republican and one a Democrat – supported his nomination.

“And he was confirmed by a unanimous vote.

“Then-Senator Obama could have objected to the nomination.

“But he didn’t.

“The current minority leader, who was serving in the Senate at that time, could have objected to the nomination.

“But he didn’t.

“Then-Senators Biden or Clinton could have objected to the nomination.

“But they didn’t.


“Presumably because they saw what almost everybody sees today.

“That Judge Gorsuch is exactly the kind of judge we want on the bench – supremely qualified, thoughtful, fair, and impartial.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that some Democrats are now planning to oppose this eminently qualified Supreme Court nominee simply because they can’t deal with losing an election.

“Mr. President, the Senate has a nearly 230-year tradition of approving Supreme Court nominees by a simple majority vote.

“There has never been a successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, and only Democrats have ever attempted one.

“While some Democrats may follow the minority leader in opposing Judge Gorsuch, I am hopeful that others will listen to the many voices, liberal and conservative, speaking out in support of his nomination.

“There is no good reason to oppose Judge Gorsuch.

“And there is every reason to support him.

“It’s time to confirm this supremely qualified judge to the Supreme Court.”