By Sen. John Thune
When Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly passed away last year, the country lost more than veteran of the Supreme Court. It lost a man who was universally respected by his colleagues in the courtroom, both behind and in front of the bench, and a man who will undoubtedly go down as one of the most brilliant legal minds in American history. Justice Scalia’s reverence for the law and Constitution was as evident in his written work as it was in his methodical and oftentimes witty oratory. He loved the court and his country, and his shoes will be big ones to fill.
Not that there is ever an ordinary vacancy on the court, but when Justice Scalia passed away, it came at an extraordinary time. America was in the middle of a heated presidential election, and President Obama was months away from leaving office. In order to protect the selection and confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice from the heat of election-year politics, Senate Republicans decided the best option was for the American people to have a voice in the process.
That meant Republicans were willing and prepared to give whoever was elected as the 45th president (Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton) the power to nominate the next Supreme Court justice. It also meant that the next Senate (led by Republicans or Democrats) would be the group to provide its advice and consent to the president on his or her nominee. Both the next president and the next Senate would be free from the political rhetoric and rancor of the campaign trail.
By now, we all know how the election ended. Donald Trump won, and he selected an extremely well-qualified, mainstream jurist who is ready to serve on the highest court in the land. Senate Republicans retained our majority, and we are ready get to work on the people’s business, which includes quickly confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Judge Gorsuch’s resume is impeccable. He is the graduate of Oxford University, Harvard Law School, and Columbia University. He served as a clerk for two Supreme Court justices, including Anthony Kennedy who still serves on the court today. For more than a decade, Judge Gorsuch has served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, a position to which he received unanimous support in the Senate. Perhaps most importantly, Judge Gorsuch believes that Supreme Court justices should be like an umpire who calls balls and strikes. The law is the law, and Judge Gorsuch agrees.
It is unfortunate that before this nominee was even announced, my Democrat colleagues in the Senate launched a filibuster campaign in an attempt to block the nomination. Not because of the character or qualifications of the person who would ultimately receive it, but because they think the seat belongs to someone else.
To be clear, seats on the Supreme Court do not belong to a president, a political party, or even a justice himself. The Supreme Court and the seats of which it is comprised belong to the American people. They, as should my Democrat colleagues who not that long ago believed we needed nine justices on the Supreme Court, are ready to fill this vacancy so Judge Gorsuch can get to work without delay.