America’s biggest business lobby group has applauded the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a conservative that commentators suggest will take a similar approach to decision-making as his predecessor, Antonin Scalia.
Gorsuch’s nomination by Donald Trump, which would restore the 5-to-4 split between conservatives and liberals on the court following Scalia’s death, was opposed by Democrats, who will likely use their numbers in the Senate to filibuster confirmation of his approval.
The 49-year-old Columbia, Harvard and Oxford graduate, who served for 10 years on the federal appeals court in Denver, is best known for backing the right to religious freedom. But, in a positive sign for business, he also has been critical of class-action lawsuits, arguing in a 2005 paper that companies are too often pressured into paying settlements for questionable securities-fraud claims.
Perhaps his most highly cited case was his 2013 vote in favor of arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, which had refused on religious grounds to honor a government requirement to provide some forms of contraception coverage to female workers. Gorsuch also has accused liberals of instigating litigation too often.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue called on Congress to vote the appointment through. “The election is over and now it’s time for the Senate to act,” he said. In welcoming the nomination, the Chamber also noted that it is a frequent litigant against the government across a range of business issues, ranging from arbitration and class actions to free speech and over-regulation.
Republicans control the Senate by a slim majority of 52-48 and Democrats would only need 41 votes to filibuster the confirmation. Republicans, however, could propose a rule change that could push through the nominee with a simple majority vote.
During the presidential debates, Trump said he would look to appoint judges “very much in the mold of Justice Scalia”. That prompted Mercer University law professor Jeremy Kidd to create a “Scalia Index” to determine who would be most similar to the conservative icon. Of all the 21 potential judges listed by Trump, Gorsuch was ranked as the second-most similar.
Scalia is regarded as one of the most pro-business judges in recent American history, having criticized government over-reach and advocated for the ability of business to function without being bogged down by litigation.