And now the battle
The fight Senate Democrats are girding to wage against the president’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court — Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch — is about much more than their loathing of Donald Trump. It’s about the short-term past and the long-term future.
There is payback for Republicans refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. There is trepidation about a shift in the high court’s ideological balance that could shape law and policy for decades to come.
For the latter reason, conservative Republicans were ecstatic. Gorsuch’s record and writings suggest a philosophy in sync with the religious right and advocates of limited federal power, with hints he would sympathize with foes of abortion.
Some Democrats have already talked about a filibuster, which could block confirmation unless Republicans invoke the so-called “nuclear option” — a rules change that would allow a simple majority to prevail, but would also set a precedent that could backfire on the GOP in the future.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted he has “serious doubts” that Gorsuch would “stand up to a president who has already shown a willingness to bend the Constitution.”
See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo.
Who is Neil Gorsuch?
The 49-year-old Coloradan has served for a decade on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate confirmed him on a voice vote after his nomination by President George W. Bush.
Praised by conservative legal scholars for his intellectual chops, he sided with Christian employers and religious organizations that argued for an exemption from the contraception coverage mandate in Obamacare.
Riled-up Senate Democrats led by Schumer used a procedural move Tuesday to stall a Judiciary Committee vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general until Wednesday.
They also shut down Finance Committee votes on Steve Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and Tom Price for Health and Human Services by boycotting the meeting. At least one Democrat has to be present for committee votes to take place.
How’s Trump taking the delays? He tweeted at 6:27 a.m.: “When will the Democrats give us our Attorney General and rest of Cabinet! They should be ashamed of themselves! No wonder D.C. doesn’t work!”
The take-away: Tea it up
Anti-Trump activists even slightly to the left of the center are adopting tactics that they saw tea party populists use after Barack Obama took office eight years ago, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
The circumstances of Trump’s ascent, and the messages he sends from the White House, have made the “out”-party backlash quicker and more intense.
How temporary is it?
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the 90-day travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries may be extended because conditions in some of them hinder vetting.
But officials said 872 refugees who already were traveling will be allowed in because stopping them would cause “undue hardship.”
The chaotic launch of the restrictions was panned by more pro-Trump loyalists. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) told CNN “all of these contingencies were not planned for.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the rollout was “terrible” and “part of the fault for that lies with the fact that green card holders were being subject to the scrutiny that they shouldn’t have been.”
Selden man still stranded
Abdulelah Othman, a green-card holding, Saudi-born Yemeni citizen, remains stuck in Saudi Arabia, where he went on Jan. 11 to visit his ailing mother, Newsday’s Lisa Irizarry reports.
And the ban played on
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted Tuesday that Trump’s executive order barring travel from the seven countries was not a “ban.”
Except Trump called it a “ban” in a tweet Monday and in a comment Saturday, saying, “We’re going to have a very, very strict ban.”
Spicer also called it a “90-day ban” on a Sunday talk show appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” On Monday, Spicer told a college group that “the ban deals with seven countries.”
Now it’s rebranding time. “It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s not a travel ban,” Spicer told reporters. “It’s a vetting system to keep America safe.”
Did history repeat itself?
Trump’s firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates was instantly labeled in some reports as a “Monday night massacre” — an echo of the infamous “Saturday night massacre” by President Richard Nixon in 1973.
But beyond the sacking of a top Justice Department official, there’s little similarity, The Washington Post notes.
Yates was axed for refusing to defend a Trump policy — the travel ban. Nixon was trying to conceal his own crimes. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than obey Nixon’s order to fire the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox.
Also, the dismissal of Yates — a holdover from the previous Democratic administration — lacked the shock value of Nixon getting rid of his own appointees.
What else is happening
- Moves by Trump and the GOP majority in Congress to slash federal regulations are drawing both praise and concern on Long Island, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports.
- The Gorsuch nomination prompts the question of whether Anthony Kennedy will retire from the high court.
- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is due to reassure Japan and South Korea of American allegiance, the AP reports.
- Trump has presided over "a palpable air of uncertainty and chaos," the Times notes.
- Some Trump Cabinet picks advanced Tuesday. The full Senate confirmed Elaine Chao to be Transportation secretary, and she was sworn in. Senate committees approved Betsy DeVos for Education, Rick Perry for Energy and Ryan Zinke for Interior.
- DeVos is not yet a shoo-in, however. Two Republican senators — Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — said they remain concerned about the charter school advocate’s commitment to public schools.
- The White House said Trump will leave intact a 2014 executive order by Barack Obama that protects federal workers from anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
- About 900 State Department officials signed an internal dissent memo critical of Trump’s travel ban, Reuters reported. Spicer said Monday that career diplomats should either “get with the program or they can go.”
- Thousands of U.S. combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan signed petitions to protest the Trump order’s halt to visas for Iraqi interpreters who put themselves at risk to help Americans on the battlefield.
- Trump “had a very somber and lengthy conversation with the family” of Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in a weekend raid in Yemen against al-Qaida, Spicer said.
- Add Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin to those who believe Holocaust statements “should include a reference to Jews specifically,” unlike the one from the White House on Friday, Newsday’s David M. Schwartz reports.