I don’t expect much from Republicans, which leads to rarely being disappointed. And not delivering much is something at which the GOP excels, unfortunately. But there is one area in which the president and the Senate must act, or anything they happen to achieve or have already been achieved could easily be rendered moot: the federal bench. The White House and Senate need to focus as much energy and personnel as required to fill every empty slot currently open by the end of the year.
Let’s be honest, Obamacare repeal isn’t going to happen. If it somehow does, it’ll be replaced with a slightly different, nominally better piece of unconstitutional garbage that further embeds the concept of the federal government being responsible for providing health insurance to anyone who doesn’t get it through their job. In short, the Founding Fathers’ vision of a free people living under a limited federal government will have another sizable chip in its wall.
Another non-starter is likely to be tax reform. The question now is whether it will be tax reform or simply tax cuts, as the two terms seem to be used interchangeably by the political players involved. The likelihood of neither ultimately happening is much higher than the prospect of any deal as Democrats have decided placating their fringe for what they deem to be electoral advantage in 2018 and beyond is more important than working with Republicans on what even some liberals have recently agreed is an important action to help the American people and economy.
As for the wall on the southern border? Given the Republicans’ reluctance to govern on the issues they’ve campaigned on, don’t expect them to move swiftly on one they didn’t. This is the president’s baby, and even he caved a week before a possible government shutdown on a continuing resolution in which Democrats denied him a pittance to start the process of moving on a wall. If you were looking to make a killing in the mortar market, you might want to diversify your portfolio for the time being.
In other words, we’re more likely to be destroyed by the moon in the next week than see movement on President Donald Trump’s big-ticket agenda items.
While that undoubtedly is a disappointment to many, myself included, there is one issue on which the president could move that would more than make up for it – the more than 120 openings on the federal bench.
President Trump made a great start of it this week when he nominated solid conservatives to fill 10 of those openings. But those 10 need to be only a start in what must be a priority to put young, reliable constitutionalists in every single judicial opening there is.
As we’ve seen in the past few decades, even the past few weeks, what the law says, and even what the Constitution says, is irrelevant when it comes to the judicial branch’s willingness to enshrine their will in the nation’s laws.
Be it rewriting Obamacare’s text to spare the law from itself, or same-sex marriage, or ignoring the plain text of existing law to halt the president’s executive orders on immigration or sanctuary cities, liberal activist judges routinely bypass the people’s elected representatives and ignore the Constitution to impose their whims.
Whatever you think of these issues, and all the others in the past and coming down the pipe now, it’s not how this country is supposed to be run. Filling every one of those empty seats on the federal bench could be the last best chance we have for holding government in check.
The successful appointment of Neil Gorsuch will hopefully prove to be among the greatest accomplishments of the Trump administration, whether there’s a second term or not. But he’s just one man. Most cases don’t make it to the Supreme Court, which means the rest of the federal bench matters just as much. Filling those slots must be a priority, THE priority.
Thanks to the Democrats’ suicidal Senate rules change, the only things between achieving that priority and success is finding the candidates and one last arcane Senate privilege – the blue slip.
The blue-slip is a right afforded by Senate tradition where both senators from the state a judicial nominee hails can place a hold on that nominee, a hold that essentially kills the nomination unless and until it’s lifted by the senators who placed it.
Since Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to waive or ignore this privilege, and Harry Reid is no longer around to do it to favor Democrats, this will limit the pool of potential nominees, should Democrats decide to exercise this option. There’s no reason to think they won’t, they know what’s at stake in the courts.
This means the White House will have to act quickly and smartly to find solid nominees from states with at least one GOP senator, should the blue-slip be deployed. And the Senate will have to act deliberately to investigate and, if found worthy, confirm these nominees.
Whatever legislative successes the president and Republicans in Congress manage to pass, and whatever has been passed in years gone by, they won’t matter if there is a court system packed with activists willing to bastardize the law to undo it.
A conservative court, sadly, is the only hope remaining for the concept of a constitutionally limited republic. Big government progressives in both parties have, for decades, sought to expand the size and scope of the federal Leviathan into areas of life never imagined nor intended. The one area holding it in check, as much as it has been held in check, is the courts. There will never be a better opportunity to send reinforcements where they are needed most. No matter what Republicans squander legislatively, this is the one area their feet must be held to the fire.
They may win some legislative fights, and they no doubt will lose others, but this is the only fight that really matters.