Something liberals actually might find agreeable about Neil Gorsuch

By my count, two minutes passed between the moment Donald Trump introduced Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to the Supreme Court and the arrival of the first email deeming him a “far-right jurist” in my inbox.

Congratulations, National Abortion Federation: You get the gold medal. Something called the Constitutional Accountability Center was a minute behind. The slackers at the Alliance for Justice needed four minutes to pronounce Gorsuch “disastrous.”

Here’s guessing we would have heard similar declarations no matter who Trump named.

But our liberal friends might want to stop and think this one through. Not just because a dozen current Democratic senators — plus then-Sens. Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry — voted to confirm Gorsuch to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. Not just because he has a pristine record and a great deal of respect from liberal legal minds. Not just because provoking the GOP to kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees when replacing the late Antonin Scalia, when the next opening could tip the court’s ideological balance, would be a mistake by Democrats playing to their base’s frothing hatred of Trump.

No, it’s precisely because liberals loathe, and seem terrified of, all they see or imagine Trump doing that they should appreciate one likely aspect of Gorsuch’s jurisprudence.

That one man’s election can spark such fear among so many people speaks to the mutation of the federal government generally, and the executive branch specifically. The overgrowth of Washington, D.C., shows up in many ways, perhaps none less justifiable than the power of regulatory agencies.

These agencies now comprise a veritable fourth branch of government, unelected and unaccountable to the public. If you worry presidential power will harm you in some way, your concerns probably stem from these agencies and their powers.

This power had to be abdicated by others. It was ceded first by Congress, which as the branch most directly accountable to the people was intended to do the hard, sometimes messy work of lawmaking. Because it can be so hard and messy, and because Washington insists on delving into so many subject areas, lawmakers increasingly find it convenient to write broad, overarching legislation that allows the implementing agencies to fill in many of the details. The effect is the agencies make the law in many cases.

The third branch was supposed to ensure, among other things, this didn’t happen. But the courts have fallen short, too. Starting with a 1984 Supreme Court case known as Chevron, the judiciary has gradually given more rule-making latitude to regulatory agencies. One effect is that, when a new administration takes over, their new appointees in the agencies are more able to change the law quickly, with less public scrutiny or accountability.

As an appellate judge, Gorsuch has suggested it’s time for the Supreme Court to rethink its deference to regulators under Chevron. He’s right, and a great many conservatives agree.

Perhaps liberals, discovering a strange new respect for reining in the executive branch, limiting the federal government and ensuring some regulatory stability after eight years of dismissing such quaint notions, could also see the value now of such a reappraisal.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: The real Down syndrome ‘problem’

Iceland must be pleased that it is close to success in its program of genocide, but before congratulating that nation on its final solution to the Down syndrome problem, perhaps it might answer a question: What is this problem? To help understand why some people might ask this question, keep in mind two children while reading today’s column....
Opinion: In defense of cultural appropriation

I’m here to defend cultural appropriation. “Cross-cultural influence,” would be the less pejorative phrase. But the term above, with its connotations of grand-theft culture, is the one favored by some African-American activists who’ve had it up to here with nonblack performers borrowing the soul and style of Michael, Marvin...

Liberal columnist stumbles on his own hypocrisy Paul Krugman addressed a variety of issues in a recent column (Opinion, March 5). While I am not a big fan of his ultra-liberal views and opinions, I did found this column interesting while agreeing with many of his points. However, when I got to the last point that our electoral college system &ldquo...
Opinion: Medicaid work requirements are sound policy

Following up on an important policy change to reorient safety net programs toward work, the Trump administration has just approved the third state request to implement work requirements in Medicaid. At least seven other state applications to do the same are still pending. Critics have warned of catastrophe, and threatened litigation, to stop them....
Opinion: For voters, GOP tax cut means nada

Even though they control every lever of the federal government, Republicans can so far claim only one solitary accomplishment of any significance, the passage of a massive tax cut. This week, in the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, they gave that singular accomplishment a test drive as a campaign issue, and it didn&rsquo...
More Stories