From 1981 to 1983, Anne Gorsuch Burford served as the director of the Environmental Protection Agency. During her tenure, she drastically cut the agency’s budget by 22 percent, reduced clean water regulations, cut funding for environmental research and enforcement, and relaxed anti-pollution laws.
In other words, she led the EPA the same way environmentalists fear that Trump nominee Scott Pruitt will run the agency.
Burford did not last very long. Less than two years into the job, she resigned under fire during a scandal over mismanagement of a program involving hazardous waste clean-up.
On Tuesday, her son, Federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated to a seat on the United States Supreme Court, our highest court in the land.
Now his mother’s ideologies and how it influenced the way she led the EPA is not, nor should it be, an indictment on how Neil Gorsuch will act as a Supreme Court justice, but given his steady record of conservative decisions in the mold of the late justice Antonin Scalia, it’s fair to assume there will not be much separation.
By all accounts, Gorsuch is a very accomplished and thoughtful justice, and having been educated at Columbia University, the University of Oxford and Harvard University – where he was allegedly a classmate of Barack Obama – he is obviously very intelligent.
But no matter how qualified or competent he is, it was never going to make liberals happy when you consider his seat was first stolen from Obama appointee Merrick Garland.
Remember that? When, a year ago, Senate President Mitch McConnell vowed that the Senate would not schedule a hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, even though he had 11 months left in his term?
And then Republicans actually went through with the unprecedented level of obstructionism?
And then Trump won?
And then when Senate Democrats threatened to filibuster the nominee so he never gets confirmed, Republicans blasted them for their partisan noncooperation?
It makes it very difficult to have a vested interest in politics when the people who are in charge of making our country’s most important decisions are so morally dubious, and without even trying to hide it.
But this is the day and age of hyper-vigilance, even over seemingly tedious issues. When other time did we care so much about emoluments clauses, or whether the education secretary gets enough votes to be confirmed?
Or who the deputy attorney general of the United States is?
The reason we know that now is because the woman who most recently held that position, Sally Yates, was subsequently elevated to Acting D.A. following Trump’s inauguration while Jeff Sessions’s nomination continues to be debated.
And on Monday, Yates became a hero and martyr to the left when she publicly stated that as long as she served as acting D.A., Trump’s immigration ban would not be defended in courts. She was fired shortly after.
The incident rekindled memories of the Sunday Night Massacre on October 20, 1973, When the two top attorney generals resigned in protest after refusing Nixon’s order to fire the special prosecutor who was investigating him for Watergate.
Though Yates’s decision to go public with her stance was described by many legal experts as unnecessary – especially since she was likely on her way out of the door within days, once Sessions is confirmed — it was clearly a moral stand, and one that she will likely be long remembered for.
Shortly after, videos surfaced of her confirmation for Deputy D.A. under the Obama administration, when, in the ultimate twist of irony, Senator Jeff Sessions asked her if she would be willing to stand up to the president, to which she replied that she would.
In short, between the newly coined ‘Monday Night Massacre’ and the Supreme Court nominee, this is the most interesting time in America for legal drama since Boston Legal was on the air.
But credit Sally Yates for being the first person in power to stand up to Trump.
Hopefully more will follow.