When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, it took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell less than three hours to state that Republicans would not allow President Barack Obama to fill the vacant seat, despite the fact he still had eleven months left to his term.
McConnell was true to his word, denying so much as a hearing, let alone a vote, for Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. The risk was a calculated one – at the time he made his threat, Donald Trump was still not a foregone conclusion for the GOP presidential nomination, much less the presidency, and certainly no Republican had a lock on the upcoming election. Had Hillary Clinton won that November, as most expected her to do, McConnell would have faced the prospect of a much more liberal judge than Garland replacing the arch-conservative Scalia.
But that’s not how history unfolded. McConnell’s gamble paid off, the Republican candidate was elected, and just ten days into his presidency, Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch for the seat. McConnell’s enforced vacancy of the position was unprecedented, but more was to follow. When not enough Democrats could be persuaded to support cloture on the nomination, to meet the 60-vote threshold needed for a floor vote, McConnell changed the rules of the Senate, activating the so-called “nuclear option” and ending the judicial filibuster. Going forward, a simple majority of 51 votes will be all that is needed to confirm any Supreme Court Justice, virtually guaranteeing that future nominees will be more ideologically extreme, less willing to compromise. The Court will become a politicized plaything of whichever Party is in power.
On the progressive-to-conservative spectrum, Gorsuch seems to be just about an even trade for Scalia, just as staunch in his views, if less vociferous and cranky about them. He’ll be a solid vote for the right. Gorsuch was sworn in by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s swing vote, for whom he had clerked in the early ‘90s. This is the first time a former Supreme Court clerk has been elevated to the bench to serve alongside a former employer, which underscores the changing of the guard to the next generation, as Gorsuch is not yet 50.
Born 29 August 1967, in Denver, Colorado, Gorsuch is the son of the first female EPA Administrator, appointed by Reagan in 1981. He earned a BA in Political Science from Columbia University in 1988, and a JD from Harvard Law in 1991. Following clerkships at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, Gorsuch entered private practice in 1995, and a decade later became a Principal Deputy at the Department of Justice. In 2006 he was appointed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals by George W. Bush.
Gorsuch advocates a broad definition of religious freedom, and wrote a concurrence in 2013 supporting Hobby Lobby’s right to refuse to pay for contraception services for their employees, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. He has also ruled in favor of displays of religious symbols on public lands, against campaign finance restrictions, in favor of the death penalty, and blocking funding for Planned Parenthood. Constitutionally, he is an originalist and textualist, believing the Constitution should be read literally and interpreted according to how it was perceived at its writing.
Gorsuch and his wife Linda live in Boulder, CO and have two daughters, Emma and Belinda.
Born 29 August 1967, Neil Gorsuch’s path to the judiciary, and the Supreme Court specifically, is easy to see. Asteroid Justitia, named for the Roman goddess of justice, falls at 7 Capricorn, closely trine the Sun at 5 Virgo and squared to Saturn, ruling career, at 11 Aries. This links the concept of justice, and the actual job title of “Justice”, to him both personally (Sun) and directly to his career (Saturn). Asteroid Themis, named for Justitia’s Greek counterpart, is at 22 Aries, sesquiquadrate the Sun, lending another layer of judicial intent to the chart. Jupiter rules the judiciary generally, and natal Jupiter at 20 Leo is conjunct asteroid Neally at 16 Leo (Neally is just one of several asteroid stand-ins for “Neil”, including Neely, Nele and Oneill).
Additionally, asteroid Gorsch (for “Gorsuch”, missing the “u”) at 11 Pisces conjoins asteroid Washingtonia at 16 Pisces, suggesting a strong pull toward the nation’s capital, as evinced by his clerking at the Supreme Court and the DC Court of Appeals, and now his elevation to the Supreme Court. Essentially, Gorsuch both begins and ends his career in Washington.
Pivotal to this career apotheosis, of course, was Donald Trump, and this is perfectly portrayed by the placement of asteroid Troemper at 7 Libra, exactly square Justitia and forming a T-Square with Saturn. That this career would not be without its controversy or divisiveness is foreshadowed by the placement of TNO Eris, named for the Greek goddess of strife and discord, exact with Saturn at 11 Aries.
Venus at 6 Virgo and Mercury at 10, conjunct each other and the Sun, is the source of the seeming soft-spoken, genteel manner Gorsuch evinces. He has the knack of expressing himself in non-threatening terms, whatever the content of his utterance.
No time of birth is available, but a Moon in Gemini suggests a quick, facile mind; allied to the strong Virgo component (which also includes Uranus and Pluto), Gorsuch is likely detail-oriented and focused on fact and minutia. Mars conjoins Neptune at 22 and 21 Scorpio, so any inimical intent is veiled or hidden, largely by that Mercury/Venus combination. These are sextile asteroid Fanatica at 24 Virgo; Gorsuch is a fighter (Mars) for a cause to which he is firmly committed (Fanatica), but he does so by stealthy means, not always apparent (Neptune).
When Donald Trump made the announcement of his nomination at 8 PM EST on 31 January 2017, transit asteroids Karma and Justitia at 15 and 18 Virgo were just rising on the 13 Virgo Ascendant. Ironically, Gorsuch was in the midst of his “Karma Return”, natally also at 15 Virgo, suggesting this elevation was a fated one for him. His natal Sun/Venus/Mercury in early Virgo was also broadly conjunct this Ascendant, while the Descendant at 13 Pisces highlighted that natal Gorsch/Washingtonia pairing, bringing him back to the nation’s capital. By transit, asteroid Gorsch at 7 Pisces is also entangled with the Descendant of the moment, as well as transit Neptune at 10 Pisces (then exactly opposed his natal Mercury) and Themis at 9 Pisces. Together these tell the tale of Gorsuch’s elevation to associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
An exact pairing of transit asteroids Whitehouse and Neally at 26 Capricorn, close beside another exact conjunction, of asteroid America with Mercury at 20 Capricorn, all in square to Gorsuch’s natal Themis, shows Trump’s (Whitehouse) choice (Mercury) of Gorsuch (Neally) as the country’s (America) next Justice (Themis). Further confirmation is given by these two pairs in square to transit Jupiter, ruling the judiciary generally and the Supreme Court specifically, at 23 Libra, and Whitehouse/Neally’s exact trine to transit Oneill at 26 Virgo, which conjoins natal Fanatica. One more Trump/Gorsuch bond is evident – transit Troemper at 14 Aries forms a T-Square with transit Neely at 9 Capricorn and transit Nele at 14 Cancer; Troemper conjoins Gorsuch’s natal Saturn at 11 Aries, setting the seal on the deal. The combative nature of the nomination is depicted by a close conjunction of the Moon at 1 Aries and Mars at 2 Aries.
When Gorsuch’s nomination was confirmed by the Senate on 7 April 2017, transit Justitia had retrograded back to 5 Virgo, exactly conjunct Gorsuch’s natal Sun, while transit Oneill had retrograded back to 13 Virgo, the exact degree of his nomination Ascendant. Transit Themis and Gorsch are still conjunct, at 1 and 7 Aries, with Gorsch exactly squared his natal Justitia at 7 Capricorn, a celestial double whammy on him becoming a Justice. One potential fly in the ointment is the placement of transit asteroid Achilles, which denotes a vulnerability or weakness, at 7 Capricorn exact on natal Justitia and exactly squared transit Gorsch. The suggestion is of some inherent flaw or liability, which in this case may mean no more than the faulty, blemished process which brought him to the Court.
Gorsuch’s swearing in came on April 10, 2017, at 11:15 AM EDT, in the White House Rose Garden. As stated, it was officiated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch had previously clerked. Transit asteroid Neely is an exact match for the 10 Cancer Ascendant, with transit Whitehouse at 19 Aquarius opposing transit asteroid Kennedy at 18 Leo and that natal pairing of Jupiter and Neally at 20 and 16 Leo, putting Gorsuch (Neally) on site (Whitehouse) as Justice Kennedy (Kennedy) initiates him onto the Supreme Court (Jupiter). An exact conjunction of transit asteroid Antonia (for Anthony) and Rosa (for the Rose Garden) at 24 Pisces further establishes the venue and officiator for the proceedings, and squares the MC at 20 Pisces, which opposes Gorsuch’s natal Pluto at 19 Virgo, confirming his powerful new position.
Gorsuch wasn’t actually seated until Monday the 17th of April. In his first week, his vote was pivotal in a ruling allowing a death sentence to proceed in Arkansas. That state had rushed the executions of eight inmates on death row, predominantly due to the fact that its stock of lethal injection drugs was set to expire at the end of the month. Lower court stays and injunctions, as well as the expiry of several of the actual death sentences, prevented the earlier planned executions, but that of Ledell Lee was still set for Thursday night, the 20th. That evening a last-minute plea for a stay progressed to the Supreme Court, and Gorsuch’s vote swung the 5-4 balance in favor of allowing the execution to proceed. The state was notified at 11:30 PM, the execution began at 11:44 and Lee was officially pronounced dead at 11:56, just four minutes before his death warrant itself expired.
A chart cast for 11:44 PM CDT shows transit asteroid Neally at 21 Aquarius, exact with the transit Moon, which forms a T-Square with Gorsuch’s natal Jupiter/Mars square at 20 Leo and 22 Scorpio. This in itself spells “judicial (Jupiter) murder (Mars)”, or execution; the Moon brings the public notice, and Neally ties this directly to Gorsuch. Asteroid Gorsuch at 13 Aries conjoins the 9 Aries IC, another indicator of prominence in the moment, and is exactly sextile asteroid Panacea, which rules pharmaceuticals, including the lethal drugs used for Lee’s execution, at 13 Aquarius. Asteroid Lee at 15 Taurus forms a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with a sextile to Neptune at 13 Pisces, also ruling drugs generally, with both inconjunct to judicial Jupiter at the Yod’s Apex, at 16 Libra. Lee is exactly conjunct Gorsuch’s natal asteroid Rip (for the acronym RIP, “Rest In Peace”, a common tombstone inscription).
Gorsuch’s chart identifies him as potential agent of death, with asteroid Anubis, named for the ancient Egyptian deity governing funerary rites, conjunct the Sun from 6 Virgo. That Sun also lies at the apex of another Yod, exactly inconjunct asteroid Lachesis, named for the mythic Greek Fate who determines the span of life, at 5 Aquarius, and also Atropos, named for the Fate who severs the thread of life at death, at 6 Aries. Natal Lachesis was conjoined by transit Nele at 6 Aquarius for the execution, highlighting that potential, while transit Lachesis lent force from 8 Pisces, opposing natal Sun/Anubis. The natal Lachesis/transit Nele pairing also opposes Gorsuch’s natal asteroid Lee, at 9 Leo, signifying the pivotal role Gorsuch (Nele) had in determining the span (Lachesis) of Lee’s life (Lee), in voting against the stay of execution. Transit Requiem, named for the funeral mass for the dead, is at 23 Aries, conjunct Gorsuch’s natal Themis, goddess of justice, and transit asteroid Atropos at 5 Cancer is exactly sextile his natal Sun.