Politics April 16, 2017: Gorsuch becomes 113th Supreme Court Justice after historic Senate vote

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Gorsuch becomes 113th Supreme Court Justice after historic Senate vote

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Whitehouse.gov

Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch becomes the 113th Supreme Court justice after two swearing-in ceremonies on Monday, April 10, 2017. Gorsuch’s Senate confirmation on Friday, April 7, was historic as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked the “nuclear option” requiring only a simple majority to confirm Gorsuch and future nominees. Gorsuch was sworn in at two ceremonies, the first was a brief 10-minute ceremony at the Supreme Court building, and then one at the White House’s Rose Garden were President Donald Trump spoke first, and then Gorsuch was sworn in. Gorsuch’s wife Marie Louise and their daughters were present at both ceremonies.

Along partisan lines, the Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice Friday morning, April 7, 2017. The Senate voted 54–45 for confirming President Donald Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch’s confirmation ended a yearlong drama to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated when Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February 2016. In the time the Supreme Court acted with only eight justices, this will be the first time the court is again full with nine members. The court also regains its balance of four conservative and liberal justices with Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the swing vote.

The Senate vote was mostly along partisan lines with only three Democrats breaking ranks and joining their Republican colleagues in supporting Gorsuch’s nomination. The Democrats were Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. These same Democrats voted with Republicans for cloture and in opposition to the Democratic filibuster earlier in the week.

The battle to fill Scalia’s seat was a bitter partisan one. Last year former President Barack Obama promptly nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland to the vacant seat. As it was in an election year, Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused even to consider Obama’s nominee. McConnell believed the next president should fill the seat. Republicans hoped it would be a Republican president since any candidate from a Democrat would have shifted the balanced and created a liberal court.

For over a year, the seat remained vacant as the Supreme Court operated with just eight justices until President Trump entered the office and nominated Gorsuch. Gorsuch is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Graduating in 1991 with former President Barack Obama. Gorsuch has long held conservative views espousing them as an undergraduate writing for the school paper, The Columbia Daily Spectator and co-founding the Conservative The Federalist Paper.

Gorsuch held two clerkships after graduating law school. First for Judge David B. Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then Supreme Court justices, Anthony M. Kennedy and Byron R. White, who retired in 1993. After making partner at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, Gorsuch returned to University for his doctorate at Oxford University in legal philosophy, which Oxford conferred to him in 2004.

Starting in 2005, Gorsuch served in U.S. Department of Justice as “principal deputy to the associate attorney general.” Gorsuch returned to his birthplace in 2006 when he was appointed by Former President George W. Bush to be “a federal judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.” The Senate confirmed Gorsuch “without opposition.” Gorsuch is also the author of one book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.”

Eleven years later, Democrats still upset over Republicans refusing to consider Obama’s nominee immediately balked at Gorsuch. They deemed him too conservative, and they found him evasive on how he would decide on issues close to Democrats during his confirmation hearing.

When the Senate was scheduled to vote on Gorsuch, Democrats planned to block the vote, by rallying for filibuster gathering 41 Democrats to stand firm in opposition. The rules required 60 votes for cloture, “ending the debate,” and advancing the vote. Republicans controlled the Senate, but with only 52 votes, they needed Democrats to help them meet 60 votes, necessary, only three Democrats planned to vote with Republicans and voted for cloture.

The only way Republicans could confirm Gorsuch was to use the nuclear option, a change of the rules for confirming Supreme Court justices from a 60-vote threshold to a simple majority of 51. The option ends the need for bipartisan cooperation to confirm Supreme Court judges. The concept is not novel; Democrats first invoked the nuclear option in 2013. Then Democrat and Senate Majority Harry Reid invoked the option when Republicans stalled on confirming Obama’s nominees and lower court judges.

McConnell was intent not to let Democrats oppose a qualified candidate. On Tuesday, April 4, he promised: “One way or the other, we will confirm Judge Gorsuch.” On Thursday, April 6, McConnell was still reluctant to go forward with changing the Senate voting rules. McConnell begged Democrats on the Senate floor not to block Gorsuch.

The Senate Majority Leader said, “So let me say this to my Democratic colleagues: If you truly cannot support the nomination of this eminently qualified nominee, then at least allow the bipartisan majority of the Senate that supports Gorsuch to take an up-or-down vote. You already deployed the nuclear option in 2013. Don’t trigger it again in 2017.”

After the vote for cloture had failed by a vote of 55 to 45, McConnell invoked the rules changing “nuclear option.” After a vote to keep the present rules requiring 60 votes had failed 48 to 52, the rules were changed to a simple majority. After a second cloture vote, the motion to advance the nomination passed. The vote ensured Gorsuch would be confirmed after the 30-hour debate period finished.

The vote altered the Senate forever. The only Senate rule left intact requiring 60 votes is for legislation. The nuclear option ensured that bipartisanship was dead in the Senate, neither party when in power could stop the confirmation process for Supreme Court justices. The option already left Democrats powerless to object to any of Trump’s cabinet nominees. Now lifetime appointments affecting the law of the land can be granted with partisan blind faith. Although Gorsuch was qualified and a fitting replacement to Scalia keeping the court balanced, both Democrats and in the future Republicans will remain powerless to stop a candidate less worthy.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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Politics August 22, 2016: Trump calls for independent special prosecutor to investigate Clinton emails

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Trump calls for independent special prosecutor to investigate Clinton emails

By Bonnie K. Goodman

AKRON, OH - AUGUST 22: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the James A. Rhodes Arena on August 22, 2016 in Akron, Ohio.  Trump currently trails Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ohio, a state which is critical to his election bid. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

AKRON, OH – AUGUST 22: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the James A. Rhodes Arena on August 22, 2016 in Akron, Ohio. Trump currently trails Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ohio, a state which is critical to his election bid. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

With new discoveries in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s never-ending email scandal, Republican nominee Donald Trump is going on “the offense.” On Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, Trump called for the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to investigate Clinton at a rally at the University of Akron, Akron, Ohio.

Trump made his call after a federal court ordered the State Department to release an additional 15,000 emails from Clinton’s tenure that the FBI uncovered during their investigation. Republicans are still angry that the FBI decided against recommending that the Justice Department file criminal charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information by using a private email server during her tenure. Instead, the FBI just criticized Clinton recommending a possible administrative punishment at most.

Speaking to an excited crowd of supporters, Trump accused Clinton of “criminal” behavior without receiving punishment. The GOP commented, “No issue better illustrates how corrupt my opponent is than her pay for play scandals as secretary of state. I’ve become increasingly shocked by the vast scope of Hillary Clinton’s criminality. It’s criminality. Everybody knows it.”

Trump indicated the FBI and DOJ could not be trusted when it comes to Clinton. Trump expressed, “The amounts involved, the favors done and the significant numbers of times it was done require an expedited investigation by a special prosecutor immediately, immediately, immediately.”

Continuing, Trump said, “After the FBI and Department of Justice whitewashed Hillary Clinton’s email crimes, they certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Hillary Clinton’s new crimes, which happen all the time.”

The GOP nominee challenged that an independent prosecutor be appointed to investigate Clinton’s actions. Trump said, “The Justice Department is required to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor because it has proven itself to be really, sadly a political arm of the White House.”

Trump has often attacked Clinton over her honesty, her use of a private server and her husband former President Bill Clinton’s foundation’s preferential treatment of its donors during her time at the State Department. Trump brought up the last time the Clintons faced an independent prosecutor in 1990s during the first Clinton administration. Then the Whitewater scandal was an investigation over a real estate investment while Bill Clinton was the Governor of Arkansas.

The crowd agreed with Trump chanting “Lock Her Up” interrupting the GOP nominee’s speech. Trump pointed out that former Secretary of State Clinton’s “actions corrupted and disgraced one of the most important Departments of government.” Continuing Trump compared the two scandals, saying, “The Clintons made the State Department into the same kind of Pay-to-Play operation as the Arkansas Government was.”

Trump accused Clinton of corruption and even racketeering for giving preferential treatment to Clinton Foundation donors especially foreign donors. Trump called on voters to reject Clinton, who he believes represents the epitome of the Washington establishment insider catering to special interests. Trump promised, “We are going to take government away from the special interests that give her tens of millions of dollars so that she can broadcast absolutely phony ads about me and we’re going to give it back to the voters.”

The GOP nominee also vowed to win the election, saying, “Come November 8th, we are once again going to have a government that serves you and your family and your country, not the special interests, the donors and the lobbyists.” Still, Trump again warned his supporters that Clinton might rig the election, telling supporters, “When I say ‘watch,’ you know what I’m talking about.” you know what I’m talking about.”

Politics June 24, 2016: Supreme Court rules against Obama on immigration executive actions

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Supreme Court rules against Obama on immigration executive actions

By Bonnie K. Goodman
June 24, 2016 5:06 AM MST
President Barack Obama blamed the Republicans for the Supreme Court refusing to allow his immigration executive actions, June 23, 2016

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President Barack Obama blamed the Republicans for the Supreme Court refusing to allow his immigration executive actions, June 23, 2016
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Politics April 21, 2016: As president, Trump vows to charge and indict Clinton for private email server

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As president, Trump vows to charge and indict Clinton for private email server

By Bonnie K. Goodman

April 21, 2016 10:51 AM MST

GOP front-runner Donald Trump as president would ensure former Secretary of State and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is indicted for her private email server, April 20, 2016
GOP front-runner Donald Trump as president would ensure former Secretary of State and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is indicted for her private email server, April 20, 2016
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Politics April 10, 2016: Obama guaranteed Clinton would be prosecuted if FBI finds it is necessary

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Obama guaranteed Clinton would be prosecuted if FBI finds it is necessary 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

April 10, 2016 2:39 PM MST

President Barack Obama guaranteed that if the FBI decides to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton she would even if she is the Democratic presidential nominee, April 10, 2016
President Barack Obama guaranteed that if the FBI decides to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton she would even if she is the Democratic presidential nominee, April 10, 2016
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Politics March 16, 2016: Obama decides on Judge Merrick Garland for Supreme Court nominee

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Obama decides on Judge Merrick Garland for Supreme Court nominee

By Bonnie K. Goodman

March 16, 2016 9:08 AM MST

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland said Wednesday during his nomination announcement that justices must be faithful to the Constitution and 'put aside personal views or prejudices.'

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Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland said Wednesday during his nomination announcement that justices must be faithful to the Constitution and ‘put aside personal views or prejudices.’
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Politics March 4, 2016: DOJ and FBI grants immunity to Clinton staffer criminal charges a possibility

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DOJ and FBI grants immunity to Clinton staffer criminal charges a possibility

By Bonnie K. Goodman

March 4, 2016 4:55 PM MST

The Department of Justice and FBI are ramping up their investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email server by granting immunity to Bryan Pagliano, who set up Clinton's server, March 3, 2016
The Department of Justice and FBI are ramping up their investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server by granting immunity to Bryan Pagliano, who set up Clinton’s server, March 3, 2016
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Politics February 27, 2016: Judge allows discovery in FOIA lawsuit over Hillary Clinton’s email server

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Judge allows discovery in FOIA lawsuit over Hillary Clinton’s email server

February 27, 2016 5:26 PM MST

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might have to give a deposition in a midst of the 2016 presidential campaign after Judge Emmet G. Sullivan allowed the discovery process to proceed in an FOIA lawsuit, Feb. 23, 2016
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might have to give a deposition in a midst of the 2016 presidential campaign after Judge Emmet G. Sullivan allowed the discovery process to proceed in an FOIA lawsuit, Feb. 23, 2016
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Politics January 19, 2016: Supreme Court to decide fate of President Obama’s immigration executive actions

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Supreme Court to decide fate of President Obama’s immigration executive actions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 19, 2016 9:51 AM MST

The Supreme Court is again going decide a key policy for President Barack Obama's legacy when they decide on immigration executive actions giving legal status to nearly five million illegal immigrants in the country, Jan. 19, 2016
The Supreme Court is again going decide a key policy for President Barack Obama’s legacy when they decide on immigration executive actions giving legal status to nearly five million illegal immigrants in the country, Jan. 19, 2016
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Politics November 20, 2015: Obama admin appeals ruling blocking immigration actions to Supreme Court

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Obama admin appeals ruling blocking immigration actions to Supreme Court

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, November 20, 2015, 5:11 PM MST

President Barack Obama had the Justice Department filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court upholding of an injunction against Obama's executive actions on immigration, Nov. 20, 2015
President Barack Obama had the Justice Department filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court upholding of an injunction against Obama’s executive actions on immigration, Nov. 20, 2015
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News March 12, 2015: Kerry Washington to star in another scandal as Anita Hill in HBO’s Confirmation

Kerry Washington to star in another scandal as Anita Hill in HBO’s Confirmation

March 12, 2015

Before there was the scandal of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, there was Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, and now the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings that changed the way Americans thought of sexual harassment is heading to the small…

Politics March 5, 2015: Obama plans injunction appeal wants to start immigration executive action Monday

Obama plans injunction appeal wants to start immigration executive action Monday

March 5, 2015

Now that President Barack Obama had his way and Congress passed a clean bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the rest of the fiscal year, he is looking to start his immigration executive actions. The Obama administration…

Politics February 21, 2015: Obama, Justice Dept seek to lift injunction on immigration executive actions

Obama, Justice Dept seek to lift injunction on immigration executive actions February 21, 2015

President Barack Obama has decided to fight the injunction a federal judge from Texas placed on the president’s immigration executive actions. The White House announced on Friday afternoon, Feb. 20, 2015 that lawyers from the Justice Department intend…

Politics February 17, 2015: Federal judge blocks Obama’s immigration executive actions at 26 states’ request

Federal judge blocks Obama’s immigration executive actions at 26 states’ request February 17, 2015

Congressional Republicans might not need to defund the Department of Homeland Security to prevent President Barack Obama immigration executive actions, a Texas federal judge has granted the requests of 26 states to block those executive actions with a temporary injunction…