It's not just four years, it's for life
Supreme Court protest an hour after the announcement of the nomination of Neil Gorsuch (Photo: Victoria Pickering, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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