Gorsuch Defends Adherence to Law at Senate Confirmation Hearing

Cheryl Sanders
March 20, 2017

At a Monday confirmation hearing for Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Leahy accused Republicans of engaging in a scheme to "unpack" the court by blocking Obama's nominee with almost a year left in his term.

Gorsuch, a federal judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, was appointed by Trump to fill the seat left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The court's ideological balance is at stake.

Committee Democrats promise to question him on several fronts, focused on his record as an appellate judge and a Justice Department appointee under former President George W. Bush.

Republicans hold an effective 52-48 majority in the Senate, and so at least eight Democrats would have to support the nomination to break a 60-vote filibuster threshold if lawmakers like Mr. Blumenthal do indeed decide to go down that path.

Still, Democrats devoted many of their opening statements to push back against the so-called Republican obstructionism that they believe caused Scalia's seat to remain vacant for more than a year. Both Republicans and Democrats have long resisted doing so as it would set a new precedent for the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees in the future. "If there was any integrity at all in the process, Merrick Garland would be on the Supreme Court today as its ninth justice". Sisk remembers telling leadership that Gorsuch was an otherwise good professor, but that these comments struck her as "problematic", especially because she grew up hearing her own mother talk about the discrimination she'd faced when she attended law school in the 1970s.

"I think that that every nominee is important".

Krauthammer said Democrats will instead save that strategy for the next Supreme Court nomination battle, which could be coming up soon if Justice Anthony Kennedy retires.

Each senator on the Judiciary Committee will speak Monday, followed by two Colorado senators introducing Gorsuch as well as Neal Katyal - a former Obama acting solicitor general.

But it is unclear if they will try to block Mr Gorsuch's confirmation.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said last week: "Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge but his record and his career clearly show he harbours a right-wing, pro-corporate special interest legal agenda". And others will use the hearings to raise concerns about the direction of the Roberts Court in the Trump Era, given the large array of critical issues that could soon come before SCOTUS, including some that were stalled previous year due to a deadlocked Court awaiting Scalia's replacement.

Gorsuch will likely be confirmed, although it could be an unprecedented journey to the bench.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said the actions blocking Garland and subsequent Gorsuch nomination "is part of a Republican strategy to capture our judicial branch of government". Rather, Gorsuch "was very matter-of-fact in that we would face hard decisions", recalling his own late nights while he had a young child.

Filling a vacancy is a big deal because the Supreme Court has the power to make major decisions that affect the lives of Americans and the laws by which they must abide. "So if he were to change Roe v. Wade significantly I would be surprised", Tracy Ashmore, a Democratic lawyer from Denver, told Reuters, referring to the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

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