Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Maria Cantwell will join filibuster of Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

Washington’s junior United States Senator Maria Cantwell announced today that she will be joining her seatmate Patty Murray and many other Democratic Senators in filibustering Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch as well as voting no on his nomination should the filibuster be broken.

“We need a U.S. Supreme Court justice who will stand up for equal justice for all,” Cantwell said in a statement. “I still have questions and concerns about Judge Gorsuch. Therefore, I cannot support cloture and will not support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Cantwell, who takes a methodical approach to her work in the United States Senate, met personally with Gorsuch and read up on his record, studying many of the cases he was involved in to gain an understanding of his jurisprudence.

It’s clear from her full statement, reproduced below, that she has been doing her research, which is what we’ve come to expect from her. Note Cantwell’s citation of specific cases and her firm grasp of the consequences of those cases.

I take very seriously the solemn responsibility of the Senate to provide advice and consent on nominations to our federal courts.

If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will have a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, and his impact on the lives of all Americans cannot be overstated.

Judge Gorsuch is commonly referred to as a proponent of originalism and textualism. He believes the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted by following the original intentions of those who drafted it as closely as possible. While no one expects Judge Gorsuch to reveal how he would rule on particular cases, during his Senate confirmation hearing he did not give Senators enough background about his judicial philosophy.

Gorsuch told the Judiciary Committee he recognizes privacy rights. However, his earlier writings on unenumerated constitutional rights contradict this statement.

This contradiction raises questions about what Judge Gorsuch believes, and how and if he will protect critical privacy rights in the future.

I am also troubled by Judge Gorsuch’s decision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) case which was recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Gorsuch ruled to limit education opportunities for children with disabilities. He had concluded that to comply with the law the school’s responsibility to the student was to make progress that was merely no ‘more than de minimis’ . The Supreme Court held that public schools districts must give students with disabilities the opportunity to make meaningful progress. This ruling impacts more than one hundred thousand students across Washington state.

Judge Gorsuch has concluded Chevron vs. NRDC should be overturned. This long-standing precedent known as the Chevron doctrine provides that judges should defer to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous statutory language. It allows agencies to get expert input for agency decisions and regulations. Overturning this doctrine could make it easier for courts to overturn important agency decisions protecting public health and the environment.

Gorsuch has also ruled against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. He has frequently sided with employers over employees and favored corporate interests over public interests.

Many difficult issues will come before the court in the months and years ahead. We need a U.S. Supreme Court justice who will stand up for equal justice for all. I still have questions and concerns about Judge Gorsuch. Therefore, I cannot support cloture and will not support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

We thank Senator Cantwell for pledging to filibuster Neil Gorsuch. We are calling on all Democratic senators to do likewise. Democrats should and must be united in opposition to Gorsuch’s nomination. Any Democrat who does not filibuster Gorsuch is enabling the right wing to complete its takeover of our federal government. They already have complete control of the executive and legislative branches. But that is not enough: they now want control of the judiciary as well.

Last year, Republicans refused to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court — Merrick Garland. Garland was denied the opportunity to even be considered by the Senate by Republicans, so Republicans have no grounds for complaining about Senate Democrats blocking Neil Gorsuch.

Democrats are merely applying the same standard now.

<Begin Republican Logic>

It would simply be inappropriate to proceed with a confirmation vote now — there is election just beyond the horizon at which a third of the Senate’s one hundred seats will be contested. The Senate majority may change. Why not wait until after that election has been held? Wouldn’t it be premature to consider Donald Trump’s nominee prior to that election, especially considering that Trump is deeply unpopular according to public opinion research? Let voters weigh in first.

</End Republican Logic>

On the Senate floor today, Patty Murray delivered a speech against Gorsuch, which her office provided a transcript of. Here’s what she said:

President Trump is clearly focused on attacking women’s health care—so much so that he sent his women’s health advisor—Vice President Pence—to break a tie on this latest disgusting attack on women’s health and care. It’s truly appalling.

Women—and men—across the country are watching what is happening here, watching what Republicans are trying to do, and they are paying attention. I wish today’s resolution was the only shameful attack on women’s health to talk about—but sadly, that’s not the case. So I want to take a few minutes to talk about another—one that is critical to women and families not just today, but for years and years to come. And that is the Supreme Court.

Last week, I announced I will be voting against Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. And, I will oppose a cloture motion ending debate. I didn’t reach this conclusion lightly. I consider my decisions about whether or not to support a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court to be among the most important and consequential choices I make as a United States Senator.

But I made it, in part because this is not a normal nomination—this process really began 12 months ago, when Senate Republicans refused to even consider President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, and because, since President Trump entered office, he has shown complete disregard for the law, for our Constitution, and for the wellbeing of families across our country—leaving me unable to trust that he is acting in our nation’s best interest, and unable to support his choice for the Supreme Court.

But in addition to my deep concerns about this process and this Administration — I also have strong concerns about this nominee specifically. And today — as Republicans appear to be rushing Judge Gorsuch’s nomination through the Judiciary Committee as fast as they can, I want to lay out why putting Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is an attack on women’s health, rights, and opportunity, one that has the potential to undo decades of progress we have made toward ensuring women are equally able to participate in and contribute to our country.

The Trump Administration has broken almost every one of its promises, but one it has certainly kept is its promise to do everything in its power to turn back the clock on women’s health and rights. And, extreme Republicans in Congress are doing the same—and have more in store. Right now, we’re debating whether to undo a rule that prevents discrimination against family planning providers based on the kinds of services they provide to women.

Congressional Republicans are already gearing up to attach riders to the coming budget bills, in order to cut off access to critical services at Planned Parenthood for millions of patients.

There are similar attempts to undermine women’s access to health care in cities and states nationwide. And more often than we would like, the Supreme Court is going to be the place of last resort for protecting women’s hard-fought gains.

If the buck has to stop with the Supreme Court on women’s health and rights, I do not want Judge Neil Gorsuch anywhere near the bench. Time and time again, Judge Gorsuch has sided with the extreme right wing—and against the tens of millions of women and men who believe that in the 21st century, women should be able to make their own choices about their own bodies. I’ll give just a few examples.

When the 10th Circuit ruled in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that a woman’s boss could decide whether or not her insurance would include birth control, Judge Gorsuch didn’t just agree —he thought the ruling should have gone further.

That alone would be enough for me to oppose this nomination — but unfortunately there is much more. Judge Gorsuch has argued that birth control coverage included in the ACA as an essential part of a woman’s health care, one that has benefited 55 million women — is a “clear burden” on employers that “would not long survive.” And when it comes to Planned Parenthood—he has already weighed in on the side of defunding our nation’s largest provider of women’s health care.

What was his reasoning? Judge Gorsuch thought that in light of completely discredited sting videos taken by extreme conservatives, women in the state of Utah should have a harder time accessing care they need. Just this week, the makers of those false videos got 15 felony charges. Women deserve independence and objectivity in a Supreme Court Justice, and that is clearly not it.

Attempts to control women’s bodies aren’t always about reproductive rights. Sure enough, Judge Gorsuch is on the wrong side here as well. He concurred in a ruling against a transgender woman who was denied regular access to hormone therapy while she was in prison. This ruling rejected the idea that under our Constitution, denying health care services is cruel and unusual punishment.

Think about that. That’s not the kind of judgment I want to see on the bench, M. President — and I think most families would agree. I also want to be clear as well about what Judge Gorsuch’s nomination could mean for a women’s constitutionally protected right to safe, legal abortion services under the historic ruling in Roe v. Wade, which was reaffirmed just last summer by the court.

In his nomination hearings, Judge Gorsuch wouldn’t give a clear answer on whether he would uphold this ruling, which has meant so much to so many women and families over the last four decades.

Judge Gorsuch has donated repeatedly to politicians who are dead-set on interfering with women’s constitutionally protected health care decisions. And he has even made deeply inaccurate comparisons between abortion and assisted suicide. I remember the days before Roe v. Wade very clearly. I’ve heard the stories of women faced with truly impossible choices during those times.

Women from all across the country have shared those deeply personal experiences because they know what it would mean to go backwards. I know that millions of women—who have already done so much to lead the resistance against this Administration and its damaging, divisive agenda—are going to fight this nomination as hard as they can.

They know that the Trump Presidency will be damaging enough for four years — but Judge Gorsuch’s nomination could roll back progress for women over a lifetime. I’m proud to stand with them, do everything I can to make sure they are heard, loud and clear, here in the Senate, and oppose Judge Gorsuch’s nomination in light of everything it would mean for women, now and for generations to come.

Thank you and I yield the floor.

Thanks, Senator Murray, for making it abundantly clear that you’re opposed to rolling over and letting Senate Republicans push through Neil Gorsuch. We appreciate your standing up for our values at this critical juncture.