With a shrewdly calculated innocence, Judge Neil Gorsuch told a big fat lie at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Because it was a lie everyone expected, nobody called it that.
“There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge,” Gorsuch said.
.. We now have an ideological judiciary. To pretend otherwise is naive and also recklessly irresponsible because it tries to wish away the real stakes in confirmation battles.
.. party polarization now affects the behavior of judges, “reducing the likelihood that they will stray from the ideological positions that brought them to the Court in the first place.
.. If partisanship and ideology were not central to Supreme Court nominations, Gorsuch would be looking at more years in his beloved Colorado.
.. conservatives who regularly denounce “liberal judicial activism” now count on control of the Supreme Court to get results they could never achieve through the democratically elected branches of government.
.. They could not gut the Voting Rights Act in Congress. So Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s court did it for them. They could never have undone a century’s worth of legislation limiting big money’s influence on politics. So the Citizens United decision did it for them.
.. Gorsuch has done what economic conservatives count on the judges they push onto the courts to do: He regularly sides with corporations over workers and consumers. We can’t know exactly where the millions of dollars of dark money fueling pro-Gorsuch ad campaigns come from, but we have a right to guess.
.. it appears that the prior relatively pro-business conservative trajectory of the Supreme Court will now be restored.”
.. The nominee himself flicked away White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’s declaration to the Conservative Political Action Conference that Gorsuch “represents the type of judge that has the vision of Donald Trump and it fulfills the promise that he made to all of you.”
.. conservatives, including Trump, want the court to sweep aside decades of jurisprudence that gave Congress broad authority to legislate civil rights and social reform, along with environmental, worker and consumer protections. Gorsuch good-naturedly evaded nearly every substantive question he was asked because he could not acknowledge that this is why he was there.
He and his movement will fade, and the values and priorities of the left will eventually triumph.But fears that Trump will set back the left’s agenda dangerously and irreparably are not well founded. Core advances can’t be undone. Although Trump could do some real temporary damage, he and his movement will fade, and the values and priorities of the left will eventually triumph.
.. Take the standard question about whether immigration levels should increase, decrease or stay the same. The 38 percent of people who say “decrease” is about as low as it ever has been since Gallup started tracking the question in the 1960s. The current number represents a massive drop, of about 30 points, since the early 1990s, when Pat Buchanan first raised his pitchfork high at the Republican National Convention. There has also been a considerable change in views about whether immigration is a good or bad thing for America — and it’s positive, not negative, change, even if one confines the data to white Americans. According to Gallup, the “good thing” response by whites was as low as 51 percent in the early 2000s but has been around 70 percent in the past two years...Nor has there been any kind of spike in negative racial attitudes in recent years — in fact, according to the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey , such attitudes were far more prevalent in the early 1990s than they are today, including among white Democrats and Republicans. This is true even as perceptions of the quality of race relations have been dimming, thanks primarily to conflict around police shootings and to a tiny minority of genuine haters whose rhetoric and actions have been widely covered. But the underlying trend toward racial liberalism continues... And he can’t hold back the one true inevitability in demographic change: the replacement of older generations by newer ones... Another locus of disquiet, if not hysteria, on the left is the environment. But consider this: In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire; in 1979, when Obama was attending college in Los Angeles and remembers constant smog, there were 234 days when the city exceeded federal ozone standards. Our water and air are now orders of magnitude cleaner than they were back then... World investments in clean energy, chiefly wind and solar, have reached levels that are double those for fossil fuel. Renewables now provide half of all new electric capacity around the world. The cost of solar has fallen to 1/150th of its 1970s level, and the amount of installed solar capacity has increased a staggering 115,000 times... Capitalism is certainly capable of performing much better — but Trump is not the man to make that happen. All he’s going to succeed in doing is blowing up one of the main roadblocks to better economic performance: the conservative Republican anti-government, quasi-libertarian consensus around economic policy... The dominant ideology in the United States is one that combines “symbolic conservatism” (honoring tradition, distrusting novelty, embracing the conservative label) with “operational liberalism” (wanting government to take more action in a wide variety of areas)... Most Americans like most government programs. Most of the time, on average, we want government to do more and spend more.. With all due respect, Sir, you’re the man that talked about the death panel. We’re going to create one great big death panel in this country if people can’t afford to get insurance.”.. There will probably be tax cuts for the rich and underfunding of important social programs. There will be more harassment of immigrants and no progress on comprehensive immigration reform. But its ability to remake America in the libertarian image (privatize Social Security! voucherize Medicare!) envisioned by Paul Ryan is distinctly limited
Scott Pruitt, whom the Senate confirmed Friday, 52-46, doesn’t fit either mold. His focus is neither expanding nor reducing regulation. “There is no reason why EPA’s role should ebb or flow based on a particular administration, or a particular administrator,” he says.
“Agencies exist to administer the law. Congress passes statutes, and those statutes are very clear on the job EPA has to do. We’re going to do that job.” You might call him an EPA originalist.
.. he spent most of the time waxing enthusiastic about all the good his agency can accomplish once he refocuses it on its statutorily defined mission: working cooperatively with the states to improve water and air quality.
.. “But there is real work to be done.” What kind of work? Hitting air-quality targets, for one: “Under current measurements, some 40% of the country is still in nonattainment.”
.. “This past administration didn’t bother with statutes,” he says. “They displaced Congress, disregarded the law, and in general said they would act in their own way. That now ends.”
.. Will the EPA regulate carbon dioxide?
.. “And part of that process is a very careful review of a fundamental question: Does EPA even possess the tools, under the Clean Air Act, to address this? It’s a fair question to ask if we do, or whether there in fact needs to be a congressional response to the climate issue.”
.. His focus on jobs and the economy sets him apart from some past EPA administrators. “I reject this paradigm that says we can’t be both pro-environment and pro-energy,”
.. Leading the EPA will be a role reversal for the former attorney general
.. he plans to end the practice known as “sue and settle.” That’s when a federal agency invites a lawsuit from an ideologically sympathetic group, with the intent to immediately settle. The goal is to hand the litigators a policy victory through the courts—thereby avoiding the rule-making process, transparency and public criticism.
.. “Regulation through litigation is simply wrong.”
As partisan advocates, Mr. Pruitt and his allies could exaggerate regulatory costs, ignore clean energy employment trends and disregard the health risks of burning coal. The E.P.A. can’t.
.. An E.P.A. led by an anti-regulatory zealot will benefit from deference from the courts, especially when he slows new initiatives, adopts lax enforcement policies, engages in collusive settlements or proposes reconsideration of past actions. Foot-dragging is hard to remedy. However, science, data, statutory requirements, Supreme Court precedents, existing regulations, state progress and the huge clean energy industrial sector will constrain regulatory rollbacks or the wholesale loss of progress to slow climate change. Under the Constitution and rule of law, change by presidential fiat is not an option.