Muncie Star Press Op Ed by Rep. Messer: Base confirmation on merits

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Washington, DC, February 6, 2017 | comments

The following Op Ed by Rep. Luke Messer ran in the Muncie Star Press on Feb. 6, 2017.

In a 2016 Wish TV/Ball State University survey, Hoosiers listed Supreme Court appointments as the second-most important issue at stake in the 2016 presidential election. Only the economy rated higher. For these Supreme Court-oriented voters, President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch should come as exciting news.

Judge Gorsuch is immensely qualified for the post. Reaching the pinnacle of the legal profession, he’s served a decade-long stint on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, represented the Justice Department and clerked for two Supreme Court Justices.

Judge Gorsuch is well-respected on both sides of the aisle. When appointed to serve on the Court of Appeals, Judge Gorsuch received the highest qualification ranking and was confirmed with no opposition. In fact, he garnered votes of 11 current Democrat Senators, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He also received the votes of then-Senators Obama and Clinton.

That support was likely because of Judge Gorsuch’s impartial and even-handed application of the law. He is praised for staying true to the original intent of the Constitution and applying its text uniformly, not bending to party or personal will.

As Judge Gorsuch once wrote, “A judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels.”

Judge Gorsuch’s comments underscore his commitment to judicial restraint.

Most importantly, Judge Gorsuch has used his prudent application of the law to protect the tenets of our Constitution and Republic – limited government, separation of powers and the Bill of Rights.

Judge Gorsuch is a champion of restraining executive overreach. In Guitierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, Judge Gorsuch blocked federal agencies from broadly interpreting laws and forcing bureaucratic agendas on the people.

Such overreach, he wrote, allows “executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate[s] federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.”

Judge Gorsuch also powerfully defended individual religious liberty in two landmark cases, upholding the right of employers to opt out of Obamacare’s contraception mandate based on religious objection.

Most famously, in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, Gorsuch wrote that religious freedom in America “doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.”

This decision ensured that no one is forced by the state to violate deeply held religious beliefs, regardless of comity with popular culture or politics.

Gorsuch’s distinguished career and judicial record are not in dispute, so it’s unlikely you’ll hear substantive arguments about the merits of his appointment. What you will hear are political objections to his nomination such as Judge Gorsuch’s appointment is a stolen nomination. This claim couldn’t be further from the truth.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s unfortunate passing left a vacancy on the Supreme Court during a fierce presidential election – an election where the nominees, their surrogates and the media made the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice a central issue. In debates, town halls and advertisements, voters were repeatedly reminded that they would determine who would ultimately make the next nomination.

Voters decided. They voted for President Trump.  And, President Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch.   So, from any fair perspective, Judge Gorsuch is not just President Trump’s nominee, he is the peoples’ choice.

Astoundingly, some Democrats in the Senate have already vowed to filibuster Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation. In fact, they made this vow before a nominee was even announced.

To argue this tactic is based on anything but political retribution is impossible.

Judge Gorsuch should be confirmed swiftly and based on merits alone. It’s up to the Senate to represent the people and accomplish this task. Our Supreme Court has been one seat short for too long, and, with the election over, the excuses for delay have simply run out.

Luke Messer, Republican, serves in the U.S. House of Representatives for the Sixth District, which includes most of East Central Indiana.

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