As the longest-serving current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have participated in 13 Supreme Court confirmations. The confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch, set to begin with hearings in just a few days’ time, will be my 14th. If one thing has stayed the same in all that time, it is that the conflict over judicial appointments — and especially Supreme Court appointments — is fundamentally a conflict over the proper role of a judge.
The two sides of this conflict are represented by two kinds of judges. One is impartial; the other is political. The impartial judge embodies the role envisioned by the Founders in our Constitution, fulfilling his duty to “say what the law is,” rather than reinventing the law as he wishes it would be. By contrast, the political judge views the role of the judiciary as no different than that of the legislature, using judicial review as a metaphorical “second bite at the apple” to achieve his preferred political objectives. The stakes in this conflict are enormous: It determines whether the country is governed by the sovereign people or by unelected, unaccountable judges.