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How Justice Neil Gorsuch Has Helped Republicans Reshape The Supreme Court

Jun 26, 2018
Originally published on June 26, 2018 7:09 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Joining us now from Capitol Hill to gauge reaction to these Supreme Court decisions is NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Hey, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So this is really interesting because a lot of lawmakers, including a lot of Republicans, have been critics at some point or another of some version or another of the president's travel ban. So what are you hearing today?

DAVIS: You know, I think the same partisan divide we saw on the court today was pretty much echoed in the response on Capitol Hill. Republicans like Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn - he's the No. 2 Republican in the Senate - voiced support for the administration's position and for the final and third iteration of the travel ban. Here's what he told reporters.

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JOHN CORNYN: I tell you, this is part of the Never Trump resistance to mischaracterize this as being a Muslim ban. This is not a Muslim ban. It's not anything that President Obama didn't do when he was president. So I'm not surprised the Supreme Court ruled the way they did.

DAVIS: We should caution that not all Republicans feel exactly the same way. I talked to Jeff Flake. He's a Republican from Arizona and has often been a critic of this administration. And he didn't dispute that the court ruling - that it was constitutional. He just said he felt that the policy of this administration is still, in his words, not very wise and won't ultimately help U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. Democrats, obviously, overwhelmingly oppose the court decision today. Many are calling for legislation to try and counteract what the decision was. But Minority Whip Dick Durbin - he's the No. 2 Senate Democrat - he offered some real talk about it. Here's what he said.

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DICK DURBIN: I don't agree with the Supreme Court ruling, but I am a realist when it comes to legislation on the floor of the Senate and the House. It's doubtful that anything is going to move forward.

KELLY: Sue, let me turn you to this 5-4 split, what's becoming a very familiar 5-4 split along ideological lines. To what extent does that drive home the impact of President Trump getting to put his conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch, on the bench?

DAVIS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today said a lot without saying anything at all. His political arm just moments after the decisions came down tweeted out a picture of him shaking hands with Neil Gorsuch during the confirmation process - not exactly a very subtle statement...

KELLY: Yeah, no missing that message.

DAVIS: ...But a bit of a victory lap there. I do think we have to remember here that we have to go back to 2016 when it was Mitch McConnell who blocked consideration of President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, to the court in 2016. McConnell changed the rules of the Senate to make it easier to confirm Neil Gorsuch with 50 votes instead of 60. I think we have to be clear that we don't know how Merrick Garland would have voted on any of these cases. But to say that there is a lot of lingering resentment among Democrats that they see this was a stolen seat on the court and the question of these tough decisions and how they would've went was very much in the atmosphere today and I think drives home - appear that elections have consequences and what the court does is hugely consequential.

KELLY: Stay with the question of Democrats because, I mean, we know that for President Trump supporters in the campaign his ability to nominate future Supreme Court justices was a huge factor. I mean, think how that played with evangelical voters. For Democrats, how big a rallying cry is this going to be in the run-up to midterms?

DAVIS: These judicial fights have just never materialized on the left in the same way. There is at least one outside group trying to change that to get liberals as excited about these fights as conservatives. It might just take another Supreme Court vacancy to see if that's really going to happen, especially if it's for the seat of a swing vote, someone like Justice Kennedy, that opens up. But Chuck Schumer said today Democrats are still focused on health care in this year's midterms.

KELLY: All right. Thanks, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Sue Davis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.