The newest Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, was celebrated at the Federalist Society last week, toasted and honored by more than 2,000 (very pleased) conservatives after a highly successful first term on the nation’s highest bench. For all the criticism that conservatives throw at President Donald Trump, few on the right can deny that when he chose Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, he made the best decision he could have possibly made. That was tentatively proven over the course of Gorsuch’s first months in Washington, and we expect it will continue to be proven when the court resumes session next year.
“Tonight I can report that a person can be both a publicly committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court,” Gorsuch said at the event, drawing thunderous applause.
Amen to that. Although, to say he was confirmed is slightly misleading; as you may recall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to break Senate protocol and invoke the nuclear option to get Gorsuch past the obstructionist Democrats. This was no bipartisan confirmation, and if McConnell had not taken the drastic steps that he did, Trump would have likely had to pick someone else. Whether the Democrats truly had reservations about Gorsuch himself or were just playing “payback” for McConnell’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland, we can only speculate. But the fact remains that Gorsuch was perhaps the most politically controversial nominee in court history that ultimately went on to take a seat on the bench.
Since then, Gorsuch has lived up to the extraordinarily high expectations conservatives had for him – no easy task for a Supreme Court Justice. One need only look at the record of Mr. John Roberts, the Chief Justice, to see that Republicans don’t always get what they were hoping to get when they confirm a judge to the bench. But Gorsuch has been exemplary in his short tenure, even (humorously) irritating his liberal colleagues with his passionate determination to stick to the letter of constitutional law. They have called him arrogant and impetuous, and they have gently chided him in the press with a predictable warning: Know your role, newbie.
Despite that, Gorsuch shows no signs of letting up.
“Originalism has regained its place at the table of constitutional interpretation, and textualism in the reading of statutes has triumphed. And neither one is going anywhere on my watch,” Gorsuch said at the Federalist Society event. “While I have you here tonight, I thought I might just settle the matter once and for all by taking a poll: Should I just keep on asking about the text and original meaning of the Constitution?”
The applause was deafening.