Congressional Republicans heading home to their districts might be doing so with their tails tucked firmly between their legs but the Donald Trump and Senate Republicans certainly are not.
Donald Trump is coming off a week where he showed resolve in the face of Syrian atrocities in which Bashir Assad used banned nerve gas against civilians. He also held a reportedly successful meeting with China’s new Premiere. Senate Republicans successfully confirmed Donald Trump’s pick to the Supreme Court on Friday after using the precedent set by Democrats back in 2013 by eliminating the Nuclear Option for Supreme Court picks.
But, the real victory here might not be pushing through Gorusch’s confirmation. After-all, Gorusch’s confirmation to the Court merely confirms the Supreme Court’s 4-4-1 or 5-4 conservative lean. No, the victory here is that the road is paved for Trump to remake the American court’s in a conservative image.
Note above I said courts and not just the Supreme Court. The loyalty Senate Republicans showed in confirming Gorusch means that Trump can get dozens of his lower court nominees through as long as they are not fire breathing, red meat conservatives.
During the campaign, Trump telegraphed his views on judicial appointments might be more conservative than on other issues. To assuage conservative fears Donald Trump released his list of 21 conservative jurists he would contemplate to be on the Supreme Court. These jurists were not just found on federal Appellate Courts like Gorusch but state supreme courts, districts courts and more.
Right now, because Republicans effectively stonewalled many of Obama’s court picks in his final two years (just as Democrats did to Bush), Trump has a chance to remake the courts in his image. Over 110 federal judgeships are vacant or occupied by a judge taking “senior status” meaning over 13 percent of federal judicial seats are vacant.
On Trump’s campaign judicial list many of the named judges are not just conservatives but YOUNG! This means Trump could easily pick any of them not named Gorusch to the these open federal seats let alone another possible opening on the Supreme Court.
Of course, 19 names are far less than the number of open judicial seats. But, they assure conservatives Trump is serious about picking conservatives to the entire federal bench and his team is busy working on finding young, conservative jurists they can appoint.
Where this directly relates to the Supreme Court is with Gorusch confirmed perhaps Kennedy may feel he can retire with a protege on the bench. Ginsburg, or even Breyer, may feel it is time to hang it up despite having a Republican President in office.
The administration insists they are not talking to Kennedy, Ginsburg or Breyer about retirement. It would be surprising if Ginsburg even talked to Trump after their spat during the campaign. But Kennedy might be considering it.
If Kennedy did retire, or god forbid from the liberal perspective, Breyer or Ginsburg, the Supreme Court would inevitably be tilted in a conservative direction for decades. This would be quite a shift.
Despite Republicans being able to appoint the majority of Supreme Court Justices, 11 out of the last 19, the Supreme Court has tilted leftward since the Great Depression. Indeed, until Sandra Day O’Conner retired, the Court was still left of center. Despite Bush’s many failures one can say his greatest success was giving conservatives their first marginal majority on the court in the last 80 years.
Another addition to the Supreme Court under Trump would give the Court, at a minimum, five solid conservatives (not including Kennedy if he didn’t retire). Short of Thomas, they would also be young, and define a generation of judicial decisions from abortion to executive authority to immigration.
Combined with a remade, conservative appellate bench, the judiciary could finally return to its conservative roots and hold back the worst impulses of a liberal American electorate. If nothing else, this would make the Trump legacy a worthwhile one. It should also assure conservatives ashamed or guilty of voting for the Donald they should be proud of their decision.