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Morning Reads: Democrats Push Back as Trump Picks Gorsuch for Supreme Court; State Dept. Officials Fight Travel Ban

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Morning Reads: Dems Push Back as Trump Picks Gorsuch for Supreme Court

President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Judge Neil Gorsuch after nominating him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat left vacant with the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Judgment Day –> By the time Donald Trump made his announcement last night, there had been so much leakage from the White House, any attempt to create Apprentice-style suspense was lost. His choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court is… Colorado federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch.

At Talking Points Memo, Tierney Sneed writes,

Gorsuch is as good of a Scalia replacement as conservative legal types could have hoped for. His writings have led scholars to put him close to Scalia on the ideological scale. His opinions have given strong protections to religious liberty and have curtailed the leeway courts give regulatory agencies in interpreting federal statutes. He also shows a Scalia-like independent streak, in his skepticism towards law enforcement in criminal justice cases.

Ian Milhiser, justice editor at ThinkProgress, notes,

Judge Neil Gorsuch is Republican nobility — the son of Anne Gorsuch Burford, who spent her brief tenure as President Reagan’s EPA administrator cutting staff and gutting anti-pollution regulations before resigning amidst scandal. More than three decades after his mother’s resignation, Gorsuch now has the opportunity to wage an even more wide-ranging crusade against federal regulation…

Much of Gorsuch’s record does track Scalia’s, especially in so-called ‘culture war’ cases. Gorsuch sided with religious employers seeking to limit their employees’ rights to birth control coverage, for example, in the lower court decision in Hobby Lobby. Similarly, while Gorsuch has never ruled directly on the viability of Roe v. Wade, he wrote a 2009 book, entitled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, that is heavy with the kind of political rhetoric opponents of abortion deploy in the battle over reproductive choice.

Progressive think tank and public policy group Demos and the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center released a joint statement expressing concern that Judge Gorsuch’s “extreme views would undermine much-needed money in politics reforms.” They write: “Judge Gorsuch has ties to the Chamber of Commerce — the single-largest lobby in the country comprised of corporate giants from the pharmaceutical, oil, and other industries, and which has spent tens of millions of dollars in elections while keeping its donors secret.”

But not so fast –> There is no guarantee Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed. He’ll need 60 votes in the Senate. Willaim Yeomans writes at The Nation:

If Democrats can hold onto 41 of their 48 votes, they can postpone a final floor vote indefinitely. The challenge will be to convince some of the ten Democratic senators facing reelection in 2018 in states Trump carried that their political fortunes rest with the full-throated opposition of an energized Democratic base to the rapidly unfolding Trump catastrophe.

The flouting of constitutional tradition in the refusal to honor Merrick Garland’s nomination demonstrates that Republicans will do whatever is necessary to fill this seat. They may exercise the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote threshold to shut off debate, as Democrats did for lower court judges in the face of unremitting obstruction by Republicans. Some have counseled Democrats to back off to preserve the filibuster for a second Trump nominee, who might replace Anthony Kennedy or a more liberal justice… But, Democrats should not succumb to speculation.

More and more at State say no to travel ban –> “About 900 US State Department officials signed an internal dissent memo.” Reuters reports, “protesting a travel ban by US President Donald Trump on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, a source familiar with the document said on Tuesday, in a rebellion against the new president’s policies.” On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that those dissenting at State “get with the program or they can go.”

Stories continue to appear about the hardships faced by those affected by Trump’s travel ban. WJBK-TV, the Fox channel in Detroit, reports that a local business owner flew to Iraq “to bring his mother back home to the US for medical treatment. But under President Trump’s ban on immigration and travel from seven predominately Muslim nations, he was forced to leave his family behind. His mother died just one day after being told she couldn’t return to the United States.

Mike Hager fled Iraq with his family during the Gulf War, returned during the Iraq war and worked alongside United States Marines and Army forces. He now owns a business in Metro Detroit and said his mom would still be alive today if President Donald Trump had not instituted his travel ban on Muslim countries.

The latest from Standing Rock –> Per the Associated Press: “The Army Corps of Engineers was ordered to allow construction of the Dakota Access pipeline to proceed under a disputed Missouri River crossing, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said on Tuesday, the latest twist in a months-long legal battle over the $3.8 billion project. The Standing Rock Sioux, whose opposition to the project attracted thousands of supporters from around the country to North Dakota, immediately vowed to again go to court to stop it.”

Another broken promise –> Remember Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to use Medicare to negotiate bulk discounts for prescription drugs? Buh-Bye. According to Matt Yglesias at Vox, on Tuesday, “after a meeting with pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and executives,  [Trump] abandoned that pledge, referring to an idea he supported as recently as three weeks ago as a form of ‘price fixing’ that would hurt ‘smaller, younger companies.’ Instead of getting tough, Trump’s new plan is that he’s ‘going to be lowering taxes’ and ‘getting rid of regulations.'”

The latest wacky Trump appointment –> Alex Johnson at NBC News reports, “Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., one of the nation’s most prominent evangelical Christian leaders, has been asked to head a White House task force on reforming the US higher education system… Falwell wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday evening. In the past, he has argued that the federal government imposes too many regulations governing accreditation and financing of US colleges and universities.”

In the wake of the 2015 San Bernardino shootings, Falwell, the son of Moral Majority co-founder Jerry Falwell, told Liberty University students:

“If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.” He encouraged students to enroll in the university’s gratis certification course and said he was carrying a weapon “in my back pocket right now.” He concluded by saying, “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

Falwell, Jr. endorsed Trump for president in January 2016 and has compared him to Winston Churchill.

Morning Reads was compiled by Michael Winship and edited by Theresa Riley. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us via Facebook, Twitter or email (yourturn [at] billmoyers [dot] com).



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.