Nothing about stealing a Supreme Court seat was "easy": President Trump owes his first victory to Mitch McConnell

As Neil Gorsuch ascends to the Supreme Court, Donald Trump takes an ill-gotten victory lap

Published April 10, 2017 7:44PM (EDT)

Donald Trump shakes hands with Neil Gorsuch, his choice for Supreme Court Justice, at the White House, Jan. 31, 2017.    (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Donald Trump shakes hands with Neil Gorsuch, his choice for Supreme Court Justice, at the White House, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court Monday morning, which gave President Trump something he has lacked for much of his still-young presidency: a chance to gloat.

“I've always heard that the most important thing that a president of the United States does is appoint people . . . to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said at a Rose Garden ceremony for Gorsuch on Monday. “And I got it done in the first 100 days!” he added.

“You think that’s easy?”

Well, no.

Nobody really thinks Supreme Court nominations are easy, and I’m pretty confident that no person of sound mind believes this particular nomination was an easy one. Trump’s boasting aside, the real credit for Neil Gorsuch’s installation on Supreme Court goes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who did all the very dirty work required for Trump’s little victory lap.

It was McConnell who kept Gorsuch’s seat empty for more than a year through flagrant dishonesty and a cynical, indomitable drive to retain power at any cost. And it was McConnell who exercised the “nuclear option” to end the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees, thus enabling Gorsuch to ascend to the court on a narrow, largely partisan vote. McConnell busted through just about every governing norm he could to give Trump his first victory in office.

McConnell's Senate confirmed Gorsuch last week after Republicans changed chamber rules to block the minority party from being able to filibuster. With Gorsuch on the bench, the highest court in the land returns to being a body of nine — with the majority of its justices having been appointed by Republican presidents.

That’s not to say Trump didn’t play his own significant part in filling the empty court seat. After all, he was the one who stumbled into the presidency, which put him in the position to pick a name from a list of Federalist Society-approved judicial nominees. Now Neil Gorsuch, a nominee selected by a president who lost the popular vote by a huge margin, will occupy a seat that had been kept open by unprecedented obstruction — after the Senate rules have been altered so he could be confirmed.

Trump is right: None of that was “easy.” And we should all keep in mind just how much hard work and unyielding dishonesty went into stealing this Supreme Court seat.

By Simon Maloy

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