President Donald Trump celebrated a rare domestic achievement on Monday as he watched Neil Gorsuch become the ninth Supreme Court justice — and he used the occasion to give a shout-out to several senators.
The 45th president has had a rough go so far, with the failure of the Republican-crafted health care measure he backed, no measurable progress on a package of tax cuts and code changes, federal courts blocking two travel ban executive orders, and other stumbles. But a bright and warm spring day in the White House Rose Garden afforded Trump a picturesque backdrop to take a victory lap.
He used the event to yet again define what his unlikely populist presidency is all about, saying his aim is “renewing” and “rebuilding” the entire country. Trump was in a celebratory mode, wearing a smile for much of the short ceremony. He even cracked a few bon mots.
“And I got it done in the first 100 days,” he said. “You think that’s easy?”
Congress handed Trump his biggest domestic setback so far when House Republicans failed to support a health care measure in sufficient numbers last month. Even if the House manages to eventually clear legislation on health care and other issues such as taxes and government spending, the Senate will likely be a bigger test.
Perhaps that’s why Trump was sure to thank several GOP senators Monday for their efforts to help shepherd Gorsuch from nominee to Supreme Court justice.
The president name-checked Senate Judiciary members Mike Lee of Utah and Michael D. Crapo of Idaho and Colorado’s Cory Gardner. Then he made sure to thank Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Although he could not be here today, I especially want to express our gratitude to Sen. Mitch McConnell for all that he did to make this achievement possible,” Trump said. “So, thank you, Mitch.”
McConnell has appeared cool to some aspects of Trump’s agenda, but the president’s working relationship with the majority leader will be key to getting parts of that agenda to his Oval Office desk.
Trump will also depend on Grassley to help get his federal judicial picks and perhaps other Supreme Court nominees confirmed, as the McConnell-led Republicans eye a conservative judicial makeover.
“I’d also like to give my appreciation to Chairman Grassley for conducting such a fair and professional confirmation,” Trump said. “Sen. Grassley. Where is Sen. Grassley? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, senator.”
Grassley was home in Iowa, but later tweeted his thanks to Trump for the mention, saying he was “sorry to miss” the ceremony but watched it on television.
The moment was somewhat uncharacteristic for the businessman-turned-reality television star-turned president. Trump often takes credit for anything close to a political feat, but on Monday, he was perhaps as gracious as he has been since taking office on Jan. 20.
“In our founders’ incredible wisdom, they gave each branch of government a different role in our great republic,” Trump said. “We have a Congress to write the laws on behalf of the people, we have a president to enforce those laws and defend our nation, and we have a Supreme Court to apply and interpret the law in a fair and impartial matter when disagreements arise.”
He labeled Gorsuch “a man of great and unquestioned integrity” and a “man of unmatched qualifications.” Trump said the new high court justice would, “most importantly,” be a jurist who is “deeply faithful to the Constitution of the United States.”
“He will decide cases based not on his personal preferences,” Trump said, “but based on a fair and objective reading of the law.”