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April 05, 2017

Sen. Jim Inhofe: Neil Gorsuch's record is beyond criticism

When Americans went to the polls in November, they did so knowing whomever won the election would have the distinct responsibility of filling the ninth seat on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Having elected a Republican president and Congress, the American people have entrusted the Senate to confirm a judge who will adhere to the rule of law and operate within the bounds of the Constitution. Judge Neil Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, is the perfect man for the job. 

Gorsuch, once confirmed, will fill the late Antonin Scalia's seat and shares many similarities with the Reagan appointee. 

Scalia believed it was the court's job to interpret the law and the Constitution, not declare what they wish the law would be in accordance with the justice's own political beliefs. Gorsuch has expressed similar sentiments, writing in a 10th Circuit opinion last year that, “ours is the job of interpreting the Constitution.” Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he elaborated, “the Constitution doesn't change; the world around us changes.” 

Gorsuch considers himself an originalist believing Congress, not courts, determine the law of the land — much to the chagrin of Democrats who want nothing more than for the courts to do through litigation what they're unable to accomplish through legislation. This originalism highlights a practical commitment to the separation of power our Founders envisioned. 

We need not look far to see how Gorsuch's principles will present as a Supreme Court justice. As appellate judge for the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch hears cases from Oklahoma and five other states. One case with particular importance to Oklahoma has stood out to me as an illustration of Gorsuch's judicial philosophy. 

Years ago, David Green received a $600 loan and started a company called Hobby Lobby. Today Hobby Lobby is the largest privately owned arts-and-crafts store in the world. The Obamacare contraceptive mandate left the Greens, as people of faith, with an impossible choice: violate their faith or lose their business. 

The 10th Circuit sided with Hobby Lobby and Gorsuch penned a concurring opinion, writing that it is not for a court to decide whether the owners' religious convictions are correct or consistent, but instead the court's role is “only to protect the exercise of faith.” The Supreme Court would go on to rule the same way in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. 

Gorsuch's principled judicial philosophy is undoubtedly a byproduct of his education and experience. He attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School and completed a doctor of philosophy in law from University College at Oxford. After graduating from law school, he served as a clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then at the Supreme Court.

Despite Gorsuch's qualifications, Senate Democrats still upset about their losses in the 2016 election are mounting their opposition to him, threatening to filibuster his confirmation. The hypocrisy of this collective temper tantrum, however, is brought to light by a unanimous vote confirming Gorsuch to his current role just over 10 years ago.

President Trump delivered on his promises to the American people in selecting Gorsuch, who truly is beyond criticism. I look forward to confirming him to the Supreme Court.

 Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is Oklahoma's senior U.S. senator.

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