Via Wiki­media Commons

Last Friday, the Senate con­firmed the most qual­ified nominee of our gen­er­ation to the Supreme Court. But in the process, the Senate shredded any rem­nants of decency and process it had left.

The Senate began hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch on March 20, but Democrats decided to fil­i­buster his nom­i­nation. Then, last Thursday, the Repub­licans pulled the “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules to allow a simple majority to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. The Senate swiftly con­firmed Gorsuch the fol­lowing day.

Make no mistake, Gorsuch deserves the seat. He rep­re­sents every­thing great about the American judicial system. His qual­i­fi­ca­tions are impec­cable. He grad­uated from Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford, with Truman and Mar­shall schol­ar­ships along the way. He’s worked hard his whole life for what he’s gotten.

And con­trary to the Democrats’ attempts to politicize him, Gorsuch under­stands a judge’s job. In a speech on the legacy of the late asso­ciate justice Antonin Scalia, he said, “judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using the tra­di­tional tools of inter­pre­tation, rather than pro­nouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own political views.”

That impar­tiality won Gorsuch unan­imous con­fir­mation to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals from the Senate in 2006 — including from Sens. Obama, Clinton, Biden, Schumer, Leahy, and others. His record boasts hun­dreds of opinions which brought together judges from the left and the right on the 10th Circuit. And none of his opinions before the Supreme Court were ever struck down — not an easy record to politicize, but many tried.

Gorsuch is remarkably even-keeled, espe­cially for a fol­lower of the some­times caustic Scalia. He’s got the tem­perament, cre­den­tials, and expe­rience of a Supreme Court justice — what more could the people ask for?

Merrick Garland, if you’re a Democrat. Last year the Repub­lican majority in the Senate blocked Garland from both a con­fir­mation hearings and a vote — a his­tor­i­cally unprece­dented step. It marked the first time the Senate blocked a Supreme Court nominee entirely from con­sid­er­ation. Though the Repub­licans protested that an out­going pres­ident shouldn’t be allowed to make a nom­i­nation, Obama had eleven months left in his term — hardly a lame duck.

Democrats threw a fit, and not without cause. The Repub­licans blocked a Supreme Court nominee on explicitly political grounds, laying the precedent for the Democrats’ own actions in 2017.

Garland was a poor hill for Repub­licans to die on. They had a clear majority, and that’s all a Supreme Court nom­i­nation needs. Garland never would have made it past com­mittee. But Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the Repub­lican Party decided to stick it out for the rest of the year, citing trumped-up prece­dents like “the Biden rule.”

More than a poor political move, it was a poor gamble. True, it paid off in the end. But if Hillary Clinton had won, she would have nom­i­nated a judge much more liberal than the mod­erate Garland — let alone Gorsuch.

In any case, the merits of the Repub­licans’ case for black­listing Garland are debateable. But Democrats’ oppo­sition to Gorsuch is inde­fen­sible. If they truly believed that a majority in the Senate could not block a can­didate, then how could a minority block a can­didate?

If Gorsuch had real flaws, the Democrats would have had a case. But he didn’t. Their oppo­sition was pure theater, and they knew it. They did what the Repub­licans had done a year before, but worse.

Instead of real­izing two wrongs don’t make a right, they drove the Senate into the ground. Once a place of civility and delib­er­ation — some­times —  the Senate has stripped its own powers. Starting with former Senate majority leader Harry Reid in 2013 and con­tinuing with minority leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell today, the body has aban­doned its former dis­tinction. And that’s some­thing to be mourned.

Judge Gorsuch is an impec­cable jurist, and his con­fir­mation is cause for rejoicing. But the pro­ceedings last week rep­resent the bot­toming out of a long decline in the American leg­islative process, thanks to the tactics of both sides in the Senate.
Mr. Weinrich is a junior George Wash­ington Fellow studying pol­itics.