Neil Gorsuch’s conservatism runs deep

(CNN)Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, is by all accounts a well-respected conservative jurist, one most likely to become the intellectual heir to Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat Gorsuch will fill if confirmed.


After refusing to hand over records of Superfund cleanup, claiming executive privilege, Gorsuch became the first head of an agency to receive a citation of contempt from the House. James Watt soon made his own exit, when he, too, came under scrutiny.
Neil Gorsuch, who was born in 1967, grew up in this heated partisan environment. His mother was as tough a partisan and ideological fighter as they come. According to a local news story, quoted in her Washington Post obituary, “She could kick a bear to death with her bare feet.”
Her memoir, written after she was chased from office, was titled, “Are You Tough Enough?” As for her views of Washington, she remarked that it was “too small to be a state but too large to be an asylum for the mentally deranged.” These remarks prevented her from winning another appointment in the Reagan administration.

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Not only was Gorsuch a committed warrior but she had an equally committed partner. Arriving in Washington as a single mother of three, having divorced her first husband, who was Neil Gorsuch’s father, David Gorsuch, Reagan’s EPA head married Robert Burford, with whom she had served in the Colorado Legislature.
As Reagan’s head of the Bureau of Land Management, Burford was another foot soldier in Reagan’s effort to dismantle federal environmental regulations. Charged with serving the interests of cattlemen and miners, Burford turned over federal lands for private use. Their marriage also ended in divorce in 1991. After leaving Washington, Anne Gorsuch Burford returned to Colorado, where she practiced law until her death in 2004 from cancer.
By all accounts, Neil Gorsuch is less political and combative than his mother. And, as a judge, he is professionally inclined to operate from principle more than from politics. Those principles, court observers report, would most resemble those of Antonin Scalia. Unlike his mother, who got chased from office, Gorsuch’s appointment to the court comes with life tenure. Once he is in, he’s in. Perhaps he might not be able to kick a bear to death, but his appointment reflects a deep genealogical commitment to reversing the influence of the federal government.

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