Grassley Praises Trump High-Court Pick

Senator: Gorsuch Would Protect Agriculture from Regulatory Overreach

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening announced Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. (Courtesy photo of Judge Neil Gorsuch; Supreme Court photo by Elaine Shein)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday praised President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court as a justice who would likely favor agriculture and private property rights in lawsuits dealing with regulatory overreach.

After denying the previous White House a chance to choose a nominee, Grassley, a Republican, was in audience at the White House on Tuesday evening when Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, 49, is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Grassley praised Gorsuch as a "strict constructionist" on a call with agricultural reporters on Wednesday. Under that definition, Grassley said Gorsuch would limit Congress from granting overreaching power to regulatory agencies, or agencies stretching the intent of Congress.

"Judge Gorsuch has a real reputation for applying the law and the Constitution as they were written, which obviously observes the separation of powers and emphasis on individual liberty," Grassley said.

The senator added, "He also appears to be a leading critic of administrative overreach, which the agricultural industry should find relief in."

From all of that, Grassley said he would hope Gorsuch is "a guy that's going to keep these regulators under control." Regarding protection of agriculture, Grassley indicated Gorsuch would be a justice that would rule against the language used by EPA under the Clean Water Act to create the rule dubbed waters of the U.S., or WOTUS.

"I think people that fear too much regulation, and waters of the U.S. being an example of that, I think they would be very relieved to where a guy like Gorsuch is coming from," Grassley said.

Gorsuch also would be more protective of individual property rights, Grassley said.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said Gorsuch "is a worthy successor" to deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. Duvall also noted Gorsuch has a history of not granting automatic deferment to federal agencies in regulatory disputes.

"We are encouraged by his past positions that courts should not blindly defer to regulating agencies, but should perform their constitutional role of interpreting the laws that Congress writes," Duvall said. "That point alone is critical for many of the legal issues faced by farmers and ranchers today."

Yet Duvall also stated that Gorsuch is a conservationist and has an appreciation for the environment.

Grassley also told reporters early Wednesday that he would be meeting with Gorsuch during the day. It also will take time to advance a vote on Gorsuch to the floor. Grassley said confirmation hearings are likely six weeks away.

"I'm looking forward to meeting with Judge Gorsuch and reviewing his record in more depth, but very much I lean for him at this point -- always reserving some judgment," Grassley said.

Grassley's role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee was the lynchpin for Republicans last year to deny Federal Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland a vote in the Senate because Grassley refused to hold a hearing on the nomination. Still, Grassley argued Democrats had no basis to attempt to block Gorsuch, because Republicans did not block two Supreme Court nominees early in Obama's term or block two early nominees under President Bill Clinton.

"In Obama's first term with two vacancies, both of them got through," Grassley said. "Republicans did not filibuster." He added, "President Trump, with one vacancy in his first term, ought to have the same consideration."

There have been a few Supreme Court cases over the past decade that directly affected agriculture. One was a 2006 case opening up the definition of navigable waters under the Clean Water Act. In a 2015 case, a federal marketing order for raisins was overturned when the court ruled in favor of the farmers challenging the marketing order. The Supreme Court also has ruled in favor of Monsanto Co. against a farmer in a 2013 patent infringement case when the farmer tried to grow glyphosate-resistant soybeans from a grain elevator to replant.

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Chris Clayton