Vice President Mike Pence told an audience in Philadelphia on Saturday that the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is fulfilling a campaign promise President Donald Trump made to appoint a conservative to the court, noting that Gorsuch will recieve a Senate vote “one way or another.”
At a private event at Congress Hall on Chestnut Street organized by the libertarian legal policy group the Federalist Society, Pence called the Constitution “the greatest bulwark against tyranny,” and said he and President Trump will defend it.
Equally as interested in the founding documents, he said, is Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, who he described as being akin to Justice Clarence Thomas in values, but perhaps even more similar to the justice Gorsuch would succeed.
“The American people elected President Trump, I believe, in significant part because of his vow to do just that: to nominate someone to the Supreme Court in the mold of not only Justice Thomas, but also of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia,” Pence said to loud applause.
“He also defends the Constitution’s unique system of federalism, and he restricts the national government to the specific and enumerated powers enshrined in the Constitution,” Pence said. “While leaving to the states much more sizable control over their lives and destinies.”
Outside the event hall, police cordoned off road and sidewalk outside the hall as hundreds of chanting protesters braved frigid temperatures to call Gorsuch an enemy of women’s health who would harm reproductive rights.
Many anti-Pence protesters say they’re worried Gorsuch will threaten funding for and protection of reproductive services/rights. pic.twitter.com/phVLjE6TDS
— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) February 4, 2017
Some protesters cited his opinion in the Hobby Lobby case, where Gorsuch held that corporations have a First Amendment right to not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies provide contraception coverage as part of their policy if it runs counter to a company’s religious belief. Gorsuch argued that Obamacare made Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, violate their religious faith by offering health plans that included coverage for birth control. The Supreme Court later backed Hobby Lobby, dismantling a key piece of former President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
Protester Mark Stutzbach of New Jersey said Gorsuch’s support of expanded religious freedom exemptions is worrisome to him. And Pence, he said, would only back a justice who also sided with the religious right.
“Well, his stance on LGBT rights, first of all. Second of all, his values of not giving women their own freedom and they’re own right to their own bodies,” Stutzbach said of his opposition to Pence. “Those are two big ones right there. And the fact that he would even stand next to the slimy Trump.”
Hundreds of anti-Pence protesters march through on-coming traffic in Center City, some chanting, “Make America gay again.” pic.twitter.com/XENyhshweL
— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) February 4, 2017
Gorsuch is expected to undergo Senate confirmation hearings in six weeks. Many Democrats are dismayed that Merrick Garland, Obama’s pick to fill the vacancy left by Scalia, never recieved a hearing after waiting nearly a year as a result of Republicans saying it was unwise to hold a hearing in an election season. Politico reports that Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley has started a campaign to filibuster Trump’s nominee, accusing Republicans of stealing the seat. Gorsuch needs 60 votes in the Senate to be confirmed in the event of a filibuster, requiring eight Democrats to join 52 Republicans.
Yet Trump has said that if Democrats mount a filibuster to Gorsuch, Republican should “go nuclear,” meaning breaking with norms and allowing the filibuster to end with 52 votes, not the usual 60-vote threshold required under current Senate rules.
The “one way or another” comment seemed to suggest that Pence would get behind the so-called nuclear option to vote on Garsuch’s confirmation if need be.
But Pence told the Federalist Society crowd that the Senate should give Gorsuch an up-or-down vote, not turning his nomination as the latest political football.
“This seat does not belong to any party or any ideology or any interest group,” Pence said. “This seat on the Supreme Court belongs to the American people, and the American people deserve a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”