What a charade. The Senate confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is liable to drive Americans nuts. There ought to be a way to suspend the senators’ pay for every hour one of them talks.
Or wheezes. I mean, I’m pushing 71 and it takes me an hour to answer the phone. But I’ve got nothing on Sen. Patrick Leahy. In Vermont they’ve got a horse-drawn plow that talks faster than he does.
And what’s the purpose, other than to evade the voters? The confirmation process has become an elaborate kabuki play in which the senators try to get the nominee to tell them how he’s going to vote so that they can oppose him even though he’s qualified.
Not that this particular nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, isn’t part of the problem. In the movie version, he could be played by Jimmy Stewart. And they could even use the old title “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”
And who won’t stop reminding you of it, either.
This struck me when Leahy was trying to get Gorsuch to endorse extending constitutional rights to refugees who have never been within 1,000 miles of America. That would be good news for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been blocking Trump’s so-called travel ban.
Leahy, seeking to goad Gorsuch into endorsing the 9th Circuit, asked whether “the president’s national security determinations” are “reviewable by the court?”
“No man is above the law,” Gorsuch growled.
“It is being asserted that their national-security determinations are unreviewable by the courts,” Leahy plowed on. “Do you disagree?”
That’s when Gorsuch launched into a disquisition on the Youngstown Steel case, in which the Supreme Court, in the middle of the Korean War, stopped President Harry Truman from seizing the steel mills.
Gorsuch quoted Justice Robert Jackson’s famous opinion declaring a president’s power is at its maximum only when he is acting with express authorization of Congress. But Gorsuch pulled his punch.
“Listen, you schmekels,” he could have said. “You passed a law saying a president could ‘suspend the entry’ of ‘any class of aliens’ as ‘he may deem to be appropriate.’ So don’t try to hang this problem around my neck.”
The senators made another attempt to get themselves off the hook in the case of the most famous working stiff since Joe the Plumber. His name is Alphonse Maddin, better known as The Frozen Trucker.
The hapless trucker (whose case I touched on last week) had been fired for leaving his iced-up trailer by the side of the road on a freezing night. One senator after another got on Gorsuch’s case for backing up Maddin’s employer.
What’s so maddening is that Gorsuch was siding with the Senate against the administrative agency that bent the law to benefit the trucker. So the senators are blaming Gorsuch for trying to enforce the law the Senate wrote.
Gorsuch did swat aside Sen. Chris Coons’ (D-Del.) attempt to trip him up over Hobby Lobby. That’s the case in which a company owned by a religious family was excused from the Obama administration’s birth-control mandate.
Coons was upset because Gorsuch had ruled in favor of the religious family, even though they operated a for-profit business. Gorsuch retorted that Coons’ position “was adopted by precisely two justices of the Supreme Court.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham delivered a dirge about how much trouble the Senate confirmation process is in after former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid and his party evaded the filibuster and, in 2013, used the so-called “nuclear option” to get left-wing judges confirmed to lower courts.
The weird thing about it is that the Republicans may yet have to use the nuclear option to get Gorsuch onto the high bench. So it’s hard to figure what the sage of South Carolina was thinking.
What a waste of time. It’s been more than a month-and-a-half since Trump nominated Gorsuch, and he’ll be lucky to get a vote before the end of April. And if he’s confirmed, no one will be able to hold him to what he promised.
Graham did, however, manage to get to one of the elephants in the room — the abortion question. He inquired of Gorsuch whether Trump, when he interviewed the judge, asked him to overrule Roe v. Wade.
Trump did not, the judge allowed. So Graham asked what Gorsuch would have done if the president had asked.
“Senator,” the judge claimed, “I would have walked out the door.”
When the senators pressed on, though, Gorsuch kept his seat.