It was another great day for Mitch McConnell and his man on the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.
On Tuesday morning, conservative Supreme Court justices prevailed in two major cases, both with a 5-4 majority that would have been impossible without Gorsuch’s tie-breaking vote.
In the blockbuster of the two, the Court upheld the third version of President Trump’s travel ban, ruling that Trump acted within his authority by banning travel from several majority-Muslim countries. The order is a modification of two previous, stricter travel bans, both of which were blocked by lower courts because they were judged to have exempted travel based on religion. In a transparent attempt to modify the law just enough to dodge that charge, the Trump administration modified the ban to include two countries — North Korea and Venezuela — that are not majority Muslim. The Supreme Court accepted this explanation, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that the president was within his rights to enact the ban because of national security concerns — even though Trump has been quite clear, from the day he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, that prohibiting an entire religion from entering the U.S. is exactly what he wants.
“The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements,” Roberts wrote of Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks, on Twitter and elsewhere. “It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility.”
Blistering dissents by Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg took issue with the notion that Trump’s order was motivated by anything other than anti-Muslim prejudice.
Sotomayor compared the travel-ban decision to Korematsu v. United States, the infamous case that allowed President Roosevelt to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Strangely, the court appeared to overturn that decision within its affirmation of the travel ban.
In a statement issued after the ruling, President Trump said, “This ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country. ” The president also reacted, less formally, on Twitter.
In another closely watched case, the court overturned a law mandating that anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” in California inform patients about the availability of abortions. Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, which held that the law likely violated the First Amendment.