Nearly a year after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death, President Trump has nominated a justice to fill his seat. In an announcement at the White House on Tuesday, Trump selected Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee. One member of Congress who spoke up about Trump's nomination was Sen. Bernie Sanders, and in his statement on Gorsuch, he did not hold back his true feelings.
Sanders pointed to the magnitude of this role and what it could mean if Gorsuch is confirmed — as well as what he expects and hopes to learn about Gorsuch. "The Supreme Court plays an enormously important role in American life. Unfortunately, in recent years, that role has been largely negative," Sanders said. "I look forward to questioning Judge Gorsuch about his positions on the most important issues that impact Vermonters and all Americans and his views on recent Supreme Court decisions."
After Scalia's death, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, though Senate Republicans refused to even consider him for the role. At the same time, during his presidential campaign, Sanders said he supports Garland, though if he were to win the election, he would ask Obama to withdraw his nomination. Still, considering the support the moderate Garland gathered among Democrats, it's not terribly surprising that Sanders isn't on board with Trump's pick, who is more conservative than Garland.
Sanders desires a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Citizens United; he explained this as a reason why he would have asked Obama to withdraw Garland, as he hadn't declared his interest in doing so. The outcome of that 2010 ruling removed limits to how much outside interest groups could spend on an election. Overturning the decision would help keep large special-interest groups from influencing political campaigns.
Sanders was known throughout his presidential campaign for his stances against billionaires having too much power. He spoke out in December against Trump's cabinet picks, calling them a "cabinet of billionaires."
At the beginning of January, Sanders told POLITICO that the Democratic leadership had discussed what actions could be taken when faced with a Trump Supreme Court nominee. The senator expressed his opinion that the sitting president has the right to nominate a justice. He also said that he felt that the Republican's block of Garland was unconstitutional, and recognizes that it goes both ways.
While Sanders did not specifically state how the Senate Dems planned to handle the nomination, other Democrats have come out in favor of filibustering the hearing and confirmation of Trump's pick. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would go against any nominee not in the mainstream, while Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said he would filibuster against any nominee but Garland. What the rest of the Senate Democrats will do us up in the air. Republicans would need to get eight Senate Democrats on their side in order to confirm Gorsuch; if they can't, however, they also have an option to go around the 60 vote majority needed. It's a last option, because it's something that the Democrats could use against them in future voting situations, but Trump himself said he supports it if it comes to that.
"The stakes are very high," Sanders said. "It is imperative that a new justice be prepared to defend the rights of all Americans, not just the wealthy and large corporations. Our next Supreme Court justice must vote to protect American democracy and keep campaigns free of the corrupting influence of big money, treat workers fairly, safeguard liberties for women and minorities, protect religious freedom and to safeguard the privacy rights of citizens."
"I look forward to hearing Judge Gorsuch’s views on these and other critically important issues."