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Senate Democrats should boycott Neil Gorsuch

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Judge Neil Gorsuch attends the first day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
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Nine months before President Barack Obama left office, Senate Republicans refused to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, Obama’s pick for Supreme Court of the United States. Little did we know then what this assault on our constitutional democracy foreshadowed.

Senate Democrats should filibuster Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, not because Gorsuch is an ultra-conservative clone of the late Antonin Scalia whose values are inimical to a liberal democracy, but because Republicans have cast aside democratic norms in favor of partisan domination. Shutting down Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s speech on the Senate floor opposing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ nomination is just one example of the new normal. The GOP’s abuse of the obscure Congressional Review Act to eliminate dozens of regulations, including those preventing coal companies from dumping their toxic waste in streams, is another. There are others.

The empty SCOTUS seat was Obama’s to fill. On a wing and prayer that, sadly, came true, Republicans held out for a Trump victory and are now cashing in on their ill-gotten gain. By ill-gotten, I refer not only to the questions surrounding Trump’s foreign business holdings and collusion with Russian interference in the election but to the GOP’s long-running voter suppression campaign that, by Rolling Stone reporter Greg Palast’s reckoning, cost popular-vote winner Hillary Clinton the election. (And, by the way, Gorsuch has been implicated in voter suppression during his tenure at the George W. Bush Justice Department).

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If politics were a game of chess, the GOP has unilaterally decreed that its pawns have the power of queens (and all the squares on the chess board are white). They tossed out the rulebook long before the 2016 election, vowing not to approve any Clinton SCOTUS nomination if she won and, recall, committing themselves to making sure Obama was a one-term president. Now, they’re using the budget reconciliation process to ram through Obamacare repeal and the obscure Congressional Review Act to repeal scores of regulations without all the fuss and mess of democratic process.

Senate GOP pawns have placed the Democrats in check. If Democrats continue playing by the old rules, politely holding hearings and acting like Trump is just another terrible but ordinary POTUS, they will be checkmated in short order, and we will have to contend with the jurisprudence of Scalia reborn as a 49-year old anti-abortion, death- penalty enforcing, vote suppressing, homophobic, Christian crusading corporate apologist for decades.

Neither of California’s Senators has committed to filibustering Gorsuch. Sen. Kamala Harris has signaled a willingness to aggressively oppose him, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein has implied as much but has also said Gorsuch is “very caring,” “very smart” and “impressive,” leaving doubt as to her position.

Feinstein has stated that she believes Russian interference affected the outcome of the election. Given her belief, and the egregious (treasonous even) nature of the allegations, it simply doesn’t make sense to allow the Trump administration to carry on its smash-and-grab blitzkrieg until doubts surrounding Trump’s role in the affair and his foreign business holdings are put to rest. Fifty-six percent of registered voters support the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate accusations of the Trump campaign’s connections to the Russian government. Seventy-four percent want to see his tax returns. These percentages would most certainly be higher in the blue state of California, especially in light of the scintillating new revelation that a Russian oligarch’s private jet overlapped with Trump’s jet at two airports during the final days of the campaign.

Judge Gorsuch could be as “caring” and “impressive” as the Dalai Lama and still is not entitled to this seat. Democrats should block his confirmation until completion of independent investigations into Russian electoral interference and GOP voter suppression and until Trump releases his tax returns. Only then should Democrats even begin to consider the Gorsuch nomination on the so-called merits.

Erica Etelson is a member of Indivisible East Bay.

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