Senate Judiciary Committee Considers Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

By Jake Ryan

President Trump’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today to provide an open testimony on his long road to fill the vacant seat of the late Antonin Scalia.

Judge Neil Gorsuch – who is currently a Judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals – intently listened as all 11 Republicans and nine Democrats of the committee laid out the case for and against him becoming the next SCOTUS Justice.

Democrats claim Neil Gorsuch should never have been brought in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee because former President Obama’s replacement, Chief Justice Merrick Garland of the 13th Circuit, was denied the opportunity for a hearing.

Much of Monday’s opening statements by Democrats referenced the lack of consideration by Senate Republicans for Nominee Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch is set for a long week, Tuesday and Wednesday will be reserved for at least 50 minutes of questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee members and Thursday will conclude with a witness panel speaking for or against Gorsuch.

To be the next Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Neil Gorsuch will need all 52 Republicans and eight Democrats for a total of 60 votes. Although, Senate Republicans can perform the “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules to confirm a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority of 51.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck E. Grassley (R-Iowa), vows to refer Neil Gorsuch to the full Senate by April 3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will “confirm him before the April recess.”

Judge Neil Gorsuch attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and obtained his Ph.D. in Law from University College, Oxford, and received the highest rating of “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association. 

Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch Ready for His Confirmation Hearings

By Bill Mears

In an isolated area of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex, Judge Neil Gorsuch has spent the past few days being put through the rhetorical ringer. For hours on end, he sits alone at a table, peppered with questions about his personal and professional record, all in an effort to see if he will crack under the pressure.

The informal, but intrusive prep sessions are known as "murder boards"  for their intensity, designed to simulate what the 49-year-old nominee to the Supreme Court might face next week in his Senate confirmation hearings.

"He's a home run, he's smooth, he's going to go through great," said Thomas Dupree, a former Bush Deputy Assistant Attorney General, "The [opposing] senators will take their shots, "but I think he's close to a lock."

The stakes are enormous, not only for the nominee but also for the man who selected him from a list of 21 possibles announced during the presidential campaign. Aides say President Trump hopes a successful confirmation will build momentum for his separate political agenda.

 In the broader realm, filling the seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia will ensure the high court remains a shaky right-leaning majority. And having that fifth conservative vote will help guide the administration as it makes strategic decisions about which high-profile issues to pursue in court-- like immigration, the environment, transgender rights, and expanded executive authority.

"It's important Democrats and Republicans not roll over on this pick," said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.  "The American people want their justices to be an independent check even to the President nominating you, to follow the Constitution, not their own political values."

But liberal advocacy groups have all but abandoned efforts to defeat Gorsuch through public opinion, with scant paid issue advertising. Many progressives lament Democratic senators have been distracted by other ideological fights.

The justices themselves hope the arrival of Gorsuch will end what court sources say has been a tense 13-month period since Scalia's sudden passing. The current 4-4 ideological divide has kept the court off its internal workplace rhythms-- operating in something of  a judicial vacuum, reluctant to tackle those hot-button issues that would lead to precedent-setting impact.

A Record to Match      

A Fox News analysis of Gorsuch's record on and off the bench-- including some 3,000 rulings he has been involved with-- reveals a solid, predictable conservative record, in many ways mirroring Scalia's approach to constitutional and statutory interpretation. And the Colorado native's flair for colorful opinion writing is much in the mold of Scalia, whose sharp pen and wicked wit delighted conservatives

The issues he has confronted vary widely-- from libel, capital punishment, regulatory enforcement, and tax subsidies. But the overall articulate message remains consistent:  less is more when it comes to interpreting the rule of law.

--"Ours is not supposed to be the government of the 'Hunger Games' with power centralized in one district," he wrote in 2015, with an oft-used reference to pop culture, "but a government of diffused and divided power, the better to prevent its abuse."

--Federal worker protections strive "to prevent employers from callously denying reasonable accommodations that permit otherwise qualified disabled persons to work, not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work," he wrote in a 2014 opinion, displaying sympathy for a Kansas woman undergoing cancer treatment, but nevertheless denying her discrimination claim.

Perhaps his highest profile case was the 2013 concurrence supporting the right of for-profit, secular institutions (and individuals too, he argued) to oppose the Obama's administration mandate to provide contraceptives to their workers. Gorsuch affirmed his past ardent commitment to religious freedom against claims of government "intrusion."

In the so-called "Hobby Lobby" case, the judge concluded, "For some, religion provides an essential source of guidance both about what constitutes wrongful conduct and the degree to which those who assist others in committing wrongful conduct themselves bear moral culpability."

Gorsuch later supported the right of religious non-profits, like Catholic charities, to also challenge the contraceptive coverage mandate. The Supreme Court later partially vindicated Gorsuch's views on both cases.

Sometimes, the judge's conservative bona fides collide, as in the case of a notorious Wyoming inmate.  Andrew Yellowbear, a Native American who murdered his daughter, wanted to use an existing sweat lodge in the prison facility as part of his religious tradition.

Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion that under a federal law,  the inmate deserved that right, striking down the state's discretionary correctional policy. It was a setback for law-and-order supporters.

"While those convicted of crime in our society lawfully forfeit a great many civil liberties," he concluded, "Congress has instructed that the sincere exercise of religion should not be among them-- at least in the absence of a compelling reason. In this record we can find no reason like that."

In his questionnaire to lawmakers, the nominee said none of his own written opinions were ever reversed by the Supreme Court.

One of Gorsuch's off-the-bench remarks is generating some concern, a 2005 opinion piece in "National Journal," written shortly before he donned the judicial robes.

"American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom," he wrote, "relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education. This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary."

And Gorsuch's 2006 book "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia" has both worried and encouraged some fellow conservatives, His conclusion that the doctor-approved procedure was "essentially a right to consensual homicide" might be used by as a red flag by abortion rights activists and death penalty opponents as a parallel argument, even though Gorsuch made clear in the book it should not .           

Zeroing In

Party sources say Democratic senators will focus much of their attention on seeking Gorsuch's views on abortion, since he has not ruled directly on the right to the procedure.

 "I will not support any candidate who intends to turn back the clock on civil rights, including women's reproductive rights and LGBT equality," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who has not said whether she would ultimately vote for  Gorsuch.

Other areas of Democratic interest:

-- Separation of powers, and whether Gorsuch would be an independent voice to strike down excesses in Trump's executive authority, including the president's revised order banning travel for immigrants from certain countries.

-- Voting rights and campaign finance reform, specifically whether the nominee thinks current unlimited corporate donations to PACs are permissible.  

 -- Workers rights, and whether challenges over pay equity, pension benefits, job discrimination claims, and family and medical leave.

 Some progressives have actually urged Democrats not to ask any questions at the hearings, as a dramatic rebuff for Republicans refusing to give President's Obama's high court nominee-- Judge Merrick Garland-- a hearing or vote.

And they demand a filibuster to prevent Gorsuch from ever getting a floor vote.

Bitter feelings linger. "This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), "and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court."    

Backdoor Grilling

Along with his courtesy visits to more than 70 members of the Senate who will decide his fate, Gorsuch has prepared for the spotlight by reviewing his own record, and enduring those closely-guarded mock hearings.

The private rehearsals are coordinated by the White House Counsel's Office, and include more than a dozen participants-- government lawyers, conservative academics, and some of his former law clerks. The goal is to anticipate every possible line of questioning and danger zone-- to give measured answers but not reveal too much. 

Sources say Gorsuch has settled in being himself, avoiding unscripted responses that might provide the televised "soundbite" to derail what has so far been a flawless confirmation journey. Administration officials are privately confident he will shine in the hearings.

Republicans point to Gorsuch's unanimous 2006 confirmation to his appeals court seat as a template to blunt any efforts to filibuster this time. Sources expect him to repeat  in the upcoming hearings what he said 11 years ago, about the kind of judge he considered unacceptable: "Someone who is not willing to listen with an open mind to the arguments of counsel, to his colleagues, to precedent."

 

 

 

Presidential Candidate Governor Jindal says the Supreme Court caved on Gay Marriage to public opinion

Presidential Candidate and Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal joined "Special Report" panelists in the center seat to answer questions about last week's Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and health care. 

Jindal argued that presidents need to stop nominating Supreme Court Justices that interpret the law to their advantage and any future nominees should be ones that rely on a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Jindal told viewers that the "easiest way to fix this is to appoint justices who will actually read a dictionary, read the Constitution."

Jindal said it was a bad week for the rule of law especially when one of the justices stated that words no longer had meaning. But it was the gay marriage ruling that really questioned Jindal's belief in the Supreme Court system.

Jindal, who converted from Hindu to Christianity many years ago, said it's his belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. He admitted that many others may be leaning towards a different definition of marriage but Jindal questioned those who make their decisions based on public opinion and not what's sacred to them. "The easiest thing for any politician to do... is simply read an opinion poll," Jindal exclaimed. He also noted that changing political stances might work for others but not for him saying "that's what the Court did. That's what the president has done. I'm not evolving with the polls."

Senator Cruz: ''Under no circumstances should Republicans in Congress extend ObamaCare."

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday on 'Special Report' that he would not extend health care subsidies to 6 million Americans who face the very real possibility of losing their subsidies when the Supreme Court issues a ruling on King v. Burwell this month.

"Under no circumstances should Republicans in Congress extend ObamaCare," the Republican presidential candidate said in response to George Will. "If the Supreme Court concludes that President Obama violated the law, the last thing Republicans in Congress should step up and do is codify his lawlessness and extend the subsidies."

He went to suggest lawmakers should allow states to opt out of ObamaCare, but agreed that the country "absolutely" needs health care reform and listed three specific ideas for doing just that.

"Let people purchase health insurance across state lines," Cruz suggested, saying it would create more choice for consumers. He also proposed expanding health savings accounts and said we need to "delink health insurance from employment."

"You or I lose our jobs, we don't lose our life insurance, our car insurance, or our house insurance. There's no reason we should lose our health insurance," Cruz stated. "We should be empowering patients, not putting government bureaucrats between us and our doctor." 

President Obama says the Supreme Court has no business messing with healthcare law

President Obama says the Supreme Court has no business messing with his health care law. The comment comes as the Justices consider what to do about language in the law that would seem to make a key element of Obamacare illegal.
 
 

Gruber and Supreme Court Thrust Obamacare into the Spotlight

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

On November 5th, in their first press conferences following the midterms, reporters swarmed President Obama and newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with many of the same questions—how will the GOP wave alter Washington’s actions on the issues?

Each gave similar answers. They would work to find common ground, with priority given to defeating ISIS and containing Ebola. Dealing with Obamacare would inevitably come, but later.

‘Later’ lasted about 2 days.

On November 7th, the US Supreme Court announced it would take up King vs. Burwell and decide the legality of health insurance subsidies given to those enrolled through the federal Exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

The legal dispute arises from the letter of the law that gives the IRS authority to grant subsidies to those enrolled through an “Exchange established by the State.”

To date, only 14 states plus D.C. have established their own state Exchanges, while the rest of the nation’s enrollees receive subsidies through the federal healthcare.gov Exchange.

On July 22, 2014, two similar cases in Federal Appeals courts gave opposite rulings. In Halbig vs. Burwell, the court ruled that the IRS does not have the power to grant subsidies through the federal Exchange according to the health care law. But in King vs. Burwell, the court ruled in favor of the IRS.

The King vs. Burwell Appeals court sided with the government on the grounds of “ambiguous language” in the law, defending the administrative deference taken by the IRS in granting subsidies to those enrolled through the federal Exchange as well as state Exchanges.

However, the court opinion also states that they “cannot ignore the common-sense appeal of the plaintiffs’ argument; a literal reading of the statute undoubtedly accords more closely with [the plaintiffs’] position.”

The US Supreme Court will hear King vs. Burwell in March 2015, with a decision expected by June 2015.

Should the lawsuit succeed, about 4.6 million people who enrolled through the federal Exchange would be deemed ineligible for federal subsidies—which covers, on average, about 76% of the plans’ premiums.  

Premiums across all states would be expected to rise by an average of about 422%. Ron Pollack of Families USA (a liberal health policy and Obamacare advocacy group) called the legal argument “the most serious existential threat” to the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

And one man who had previously made the plaintiffs’ case? Jonathan Gruber—an Obamacare architect, MIT professor, and a nearly $400,000 paid Department of Health and Human Services consultant.

In July, a video surfaced of Gruber speaking on a January 18th, 2012 forum stating, “… if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at state here in setting up these Exchanges.”

Shortly after, Gruber told Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic, “I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off the cuff. It was just a mistake.”  

However, that wasn’t the only time Gruber “mistakenly” spoke of the need to establish state Exchanges in order to get federal subsidies. Soon after, Breitbart uncovered another video of Gruber speaking at a different forum 8 days earlier, making the same points.

More recently, Gruber was caught up in yet another scandal.

Footage from a 2013 Obamacare forum at the University of Pennsylvania showed Gruber saying, “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really, critical for the thing to pass.”

And while the US Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the individual mandate on the grounds that the repercussion for not doing so was actually a “tax,” not a “penalty,” Gruber indicated that the law was purposely written in a “tortured way,” saying, “If the CBO scored the [individual mandate] as a tax, the bill dies.”

Though he told MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow that he regretted the remarks and that he, again, was “speaking off the cuff,” at least 2 other videos have since been uncovered of Gruber giving similar “off the cuff” remarks.

The Democrats are today playing cleanup.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi today said, “I don’t know who he [Gruber] is. He didn’t help us write the bill . . . let’s put him aside.”

However, the former House Speaker’s website cites Gruber’s Obamacare analysis, and CSPAN today unearthed video of Pelosi publically mentioning Gruber in 2009.  

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also weighed in, saying, “the process associated with writing, passing, and implementing the ACA has been extraordinarily transparent,” adding, “the fact is I think it is Republicans who haven’t been transparent or particularly honest about the true impact of this.”

For more on Gruber and the political and legal implications of his remarks, tune into Special Report tonight.  

Special Report Grapevine

Thanks A Brunch: Having a seat on the highest court in the land does not guarantee you a seat for brunch. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was turned away from a restaurant at his alma mater yesterday because he did not make a reservation. His honor was reportedly at Yale to receive an award from the law school. Above the Law reports Alito and his wife went to brunch at a restaurant in the Yale Hotel, but the hostess said it was full and they could not be seated. He said ok and left. Someone who recognized the justice asked the hostess if she knew who she had just kicked out--she said no. After learning who he was she told the person he should have made a reservation.

It should come as no surprise that even at his alma mater Alito went unrecognized. A poll finds two-thirds of americans cannot name even one Supreme Court Justice. Of that list -- Alito ranks seventh of nine when it comes to name recognition at just five percent. The least known -- Stephen Breyer-- at three percent.

Selfie Safety:  The Russian government is warning young people to lay off the selfies because of head lice. That recommendation comes from a department that regularly dispenses health advice. It claims multi-person selfies are one of the prime culprits for lice transmission because the little bugs can hop from one closely-bunched head to another.

The Force Is NOT With You: Finally, the force apparently was not with Darth Vader this weekend. A candidate for Ukraine's parliament, who legally changed his name to Darth Vader, was not allowed to vote because he would not take off his mask. The Internet Party candidate always wears full Star Wars regalia and promises to turn Ukraine into a galactic empire.Yesterday was election day and Vader arrived at his polling place, showed his ID, but would not show his face. He was denied a ballot.He said he was disappointed, but polls show regardless of the ballot he has little chance of winning. 

Supreme Court Rulings on Gay Marriage

Crowds at the Supreme Court for same-sex marriage debate

Thank you to Allison Brinkerhoff, Fox News, for these photos.

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