Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch will return to the White House on Monday for a swearing-in ceremony in the Rose Garden that President Trump and his allies hope will resonate well beyond the judge’s ugly confirmation battle.
The event marks a big win for Trump and conservatives — both on and off Capitol Hill — who have struggled desperately to produce significant victories despite pledges of sweeping change in Washington that one-party rule would bring.
Since he was inaugurated 80 days ago, Trump has failed to advance much of the ambitious legislative agenda he said would happen quickly if he was elected — rolling back the Affordable Care Act, rewriting the tax code and injecting big spending into the country’s infrastructure.
But the confirmation of Gorsuch on Friday — despite the change to Senate rules that preceded it — broke this pattern, at least in a singular instance. Trump allies in the conservative movement, and in Congress, hope that it will serve as a springboard for other triumphs and something of a reboot of his presidency.
“I think it’s a big shot in the arm,” Trump ally Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said of Gorsuch’s confirmation. “It gives Republicans a taste of victory and reminds them we can have many more.”
Judge Neil M. Gorsuch is set to be sworn in as a Supreme Court justice on April 10 – and his supporters and detractors will soon find out whether they were right. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Trump also garnered measured praise on Capitol Hill last week for his decision to strike a Syrian airfield after that country’s government launched a chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians. Though Republican leaders welcomed the assault as long overdue, some conservatives — including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — decried it. And many lawmakers believe the president must get approval from them if he wants to expand military action in Syria.
Many conservative activists and lawmakers noted the key to Gorsuch’s confirmation was GOP unity from the beginning. Trump drew Gorsuch’s name from a list of 21 candidates that he released during the campaign, and announced his pick in a prime-time address from the White House East room.
Conservatives expressed enthusiasm for the pick — as he was seen in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia — and celebrated that Gorsuch would maintain the high court’s ideological balance, pouring millions of dollars into advertising benefitting him.
“Hopefully, we’ve learned some lessons from the health-care challenge,” said veteran GOP operative Ed Rollins, the senior strategist for the pro-Trump Great America PAC. “We weren’t in that one as much as we were in this one,” he added, referring to the Gorsuch fight.
But the momentum generated by the Gorsuch win may be hard to capitalize on. The reality waiting for Trump when lawmakers return at the end of April from a two-week recess is not especially rosy. Even some Republicans on Capitol Hill question whether a nomination muscled through the Senate through an extraordinary rules change has much meaning for more difficult battles ahead.
“I don’t think there’s any great lessons to be taken from the last few weeks here,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for instance.
Deep divisions remain on health care as House Republican infighting felled a compromise on a marquee campaign promise for both Trump and GOP lawmakers, despite claims of progress before lawmakers left town last week.
There are still major disagreements over how to proceed both within the White House and between House and Senate leaders…