US general discussion

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As well as the Syrian air strikes there was other big news in the US yesterday.


NY Times: U.S. Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Justice

The confirmation saga did not help the reputation of the Supreme Court, either. The justices say politics plays no role in their work, but the public heard an unrelentingly different story over the last year, with politicians, pundits and well-financed outside groups insisting that a Democratic nominee would rule differently from a Republican one.

BBC:  Trump Welcomes New ‘Friend’ Xi

“Tremendous progress” has been made in talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Donald Trump has said on the summit’s second and final day.

“I think truly progress has been made,” the US president said, declaring the relationship as “outstanding”.

The two men and their staff sat face to face for talks at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.

Last year Mr Trump said China had “raped the US” and vowed to brand the superpower a currency manipulator.

I don’t know how the Chinese will view a two-faced Trump.

US Supreme Court nomination going ‘nuclear’

As predicted Senate Democrats blocked the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court  to fill a vacancy that wasn’t filled last year because Republicans blocked President Obama’s nomination.

So the Republicans are resorting to a rule change to override the need for a 60 vote majority, often referred to as ‘the nuclear option’ – a move enabled by Democrats in 2013 that allowed them to ram through lower court nominations.

I don’t know why the Democrats didn’t try going nuclear last year, perhaps they thought it would look too bad in election year.

But the Republicans don’t care how it looks now, they just want to win over the nomination.

The BBC covers this in ‘Nuclear’ showdown over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

Republicans have taken the historic step of changing US Senate rules in order to ram through confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

They invoked the “nuclear option” after Democrats used a tactic known as a filibuster for the first time in half a century to block the nominee.

Denver appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch is now set to be approved on Friday.

The move will leave Congress even more plagued by gridlock. Republican John McCain said: “Bad day for democracy.”

At stakes is ideological control of the nation’s highest court, which has the final say on some of the most controversial US legal issues, from gun control to abortion to election financing to workers’ and LGBT rights.

Given the sweeping power of the Supreme Court – it touches on every facet of American life – the stakes have become too high for little things like tradition and consensus-building to merit consideration.

Thursday was about the exercise of raw power. Republicans had the votes, and they wanted – they needed – their man on the high court to preserve their conservative majority.

The legislative manoeuvre – called the nuclear option because it is so extreme – enables Mr Gorsuch to be approved by a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, where Republicans control 52 seats.

After falling five votes short on Thursday of the 60 needed to confirm Mr Gorsuch, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell retaliated by voting 52-48 along party lines to rewrite the rules.

The legislative manoeuvre – called the nuclear option because it is so extreme – enables Mr Gorsuch to be approved by a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, where Republicans control 52 seats.

Given the sweeping power of the Supreme Court – it touches on every facet of American life – the stakes have become too high for little things like tradition and consensus-building to merit consideration.

Thursday was about the exercise of raw power. Republicans had the votes, and they wanted – they needed – their man on the high court to preserve their conservative majority.

So much for a non-partisan judiciary, but trying to slant the Supreme Court politically is nothing new in the US. Allowing politicians to select judges is doomed to be abused.

More from the BBC on this:

The ‘shining city upon a hill whose beaconlight guides freedom-loving people everywhere’ (Ronald Reagan) was already badly tarnished has found a way to set a worse example of democratic abuse.