In late January, President Trump took an important step toward ensuring that the U.S. Supreme Court will protect the interests of the people of West Virginia.
Fulfilling an important campaign promise, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, a brilliant jurist with a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law, to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. The following day, I sent a letter to Senate leaders along with the Attorneys General of 19 other states to express strong support for Judge Gorsuch and urge the Senate to confirm him without delay.
As the chief legal officer in West Virginia, I sent that letter because the choice to replace Justice Scalia is an urgent matter for the people of this State. On February 9, 2016, a divided 5-4 Supreme Court granted West Virginia’s motion to stay President Obama’s unlawful and burdensome Clean Power Plan, which was designed to put coal companies out of business—and our coal miners out of work. Justice Scalia provided a critical fifth vote in favor of the stay.
As a result, the President’s power plan was halted in its tracks, and that stay remains in place today. Had the power plan become law, by EPA’s own conservative estimate, it would have cost tens of thousands of jobs in the coal, natural gas, and electricity sectors by 2025.
As it turned out, tragically, Justice Scalia’s vote staying the power plan would be one of his last public acts. Less than one week after the stay was granted, Justice Scalia died unexpectedly. Had President Obama (or a President Hillary Clinton) filled his seat, the stay would have been jeopardized and our coal miners placed at risk.
Voters here and around the country, however, ensured that would not happen. During the campaign, in perhaps the most transparent judicial selection process in history, President Trump released a list of judges, including Judge Gorsuch, that he promised to use exclusively to select Justice Scalia’s replacement. More than one in five voters listed the Supreme Court as the most important issue in voting for President, and over half of those pulled the lever for Donald Trump, sending him to the White House.
West Virginians can now be proud of the nominee that President Trump has selected. Judge Gorsuch is a humble, faith-filled man with a keen intellect and firm commitment to interpreting the Constitution as written. He is dedicated to protecting religious liberties and to Second Amendment rights. Also, like many West Virginians, he is an avid outdoorsman who loves to hunt, fly-fish, and ski.
Perhaps most importantly, Judge Gorsuch understands the danger to our system of limited government posed by unchecked and unelected federal bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. In a recent decision, Judge Gorsuch indicated his willingness to rein in federal regulatory overreach and revisit judicial decisions that too often have deferred to agencies’ lawless and job-killing rules. “Maybe the time has come,” he wrote, to “face the behemoth.”
As your Attorney General, I remain committed to facing the behemoth administrative state that President Obama left in place and undoing the power plan and other lawless rules issued by his EPA. To ensure we reach this goal, we need a Supreme Court that will hold agencies accountable when they exceed their lawful authority.
To that end, I am grateful to Senator Capito for indicating that she will vote for Judge Gorsuch and I urge Senator Manchin to do the same. The stakes for West Virginians are too high for us to offer Judge Gorsuch anything less than our full support.
Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.