Mothers can have profound influence on their sons, especially in the formative years. That is why senators should tactfully probe the relationship between President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, and his mother, the late Anne Gorsuch. The latter was forced to resign in the 1980s' from the top post at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the wake of a toxic waste scandal and allegations of gross mismanagement. It was an experience that left both mother and son with hard feelings. According to Anne Gorsuch's memoir, Neil, who was a high school student at the time, thought she was being railroaded to step down and urged her not to be a quitter. He argued that she was just carrying out President Reagan's orders to scale back the agency.
Does Neil retain a residual bias against the environmental agency? It is not out of the question since his conservative judicial record has an anti-regulatory, pro- corporate business bent (similar to his mother's philosophy). If his resentment against the EPA and its regulatory mission persists, it could conceivably taint his decision-making in cases involving the Agency.
Hopefully, Anne Gorsuch's stormy relationship with the EPA has left no permanent scars on her son.
But a stormy relationship it was. A protégé of beer magnate Joseph Coors, Ms. Gorsuch had little experience with environmental issues when President Reagan plucked her from the Colorado state legislature to run the EPA. Reagan's ideological marching orders were to substantially shrink the agency and its regulations. In her zeal to oblige, Ms. Gorsuch went overboard, even for Reagan and certainly for the general public and the Democrats in Congress.
In the first year of Gorsuch's abbreviated 22 month EPA stint, Agency enforcement actions against corporate polluters declined by approximately 70 percent and the overall budget was slashed by 22 percent.
Gorsuch went whole hog in delegating EPA regulatory responsibilities to the states (whether they could handle them or not) emasculating the Agency in the process. In her first few months on the job, the Agency virtually came to a halt.
Mutual animus erupted between Gorsuch and the rank-and-file EPA personnel who labeled her the "Ice Queen". Morale plummeted and five months into the job, an average of four resignations a day were recorded.
Gorsuch, for her part, surrounded herself with a small band of ideological appointees who were dedicated to rooting out internal dissent and contracting the scope of the Agency.
Cited for contempt of Congress for not being forthcoming about a toxic waste scandal among subordinates and denounced for mismanagement, Gorsuch was pressured to resign. Reagan's mass demolition of the Agency was aborted and some semblance of normalcy was restored.
Gorsuch was not shy about admitting she brought home some bitterness from the office, so the question remains whether any of her grievances permanently rubbed off on Neil.
Of course, a mother's sins should not reflexively be visited on the son, but nor is it wise to ignore the oft insightful aphorism " Blood is thicker than water".