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What Happened At Gorsuch's Confirmation Hearings, Today?

by Countable | 3.20.17

Day two of confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court allowed senators on both sides of the aisle to question the judge directly. As expected, Republican senators offered glowing reflections on Gorsuch’s record and temperament, while Democrats questioned him on his past cases, past decisions of the Supreme Court and his loyalty to President Donald Trump. The day’s hearing, according to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), is expected to last 10 hours, so here’s what’s happened so far.

From the beginning of the hearing, Democrats noted the unwillingness of Senate Republicans to even allow a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016. Ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) expressed her extreme "disappointment" over Republican’s treatment of Garland’s nomination, but conceded, “Our job is to determine whether Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable mainstream conservative or is he not.” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) echoed her disappointment, stating the Republican blocking of Garland was “never grounded in principle or precedent”. When Judge Gorsuch was questioned about Garland he would not offer an opinion on the Republican actions, but testified that his peer is “an outstanding judge”.

Democrats also questioned Judge Gorsuch on his prior cases, particularly regarding worker’s rights and campaign finance. Regarding worker’s rights, their concerns were centered on whether or not Judge Gorsuch would always rule against employees. The judge lamented the necessity of his ruling in "The Case of the Frozen Trucker," noting that, though he still believes his ruling was consistent with the law, it was not a decision that was consistent with his heart. Gorsuch maintained that in his 2,700 case history of rulings he was sure there were numerous instances of cases where he ruled for the “little guy” and listed a few for reference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) promised to look them up and ask him more specific questions about them in the second round of questions.

Sen. Klobuchar primarily focused, however, on campaign finance law. She quoted numerous dissenting opinions or further opinions authored by Judge Gorsuch that suggested he would dismantle the campaign finance laws and limitations currently in place. She also asked the judge to offer an opinion on Citizens United. Gorsuch refused to offer an opinion onthe landmark campaign finance case, as well as other cases that might come before the court, and defended his prior written opinions as being either consistent with existing law or pointing out inconsistencies in existing law that he believed should be addressed.

Republicans defended Gorsuch throughout the day. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asserted that he was pleased with how the White House had handled the nomination, stating it was "the single-most coherent moment in the administration is how they introduced him." Sen. Mike Lee lamented the treatment of Gorsuch, suggesting that he wasn’t used to it because he “is not a politician,” while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that Gorsuch shouldn’t have to field questions about President Trump, since previous nominees had not had to answer for the Democratic presidents that nominated them.

Judge Gorsuch did state clearly and unequivocally that he would not hesitate to rule against the administration or President Trump, saying "no man is above the law." Otherwise, he appeared to strive for conciliation throughout the day. He noted that there are no Democrat or Republican judges, there are just judges. He also noted his history of striving for consensus, “My law clerks tell me that 97 percent of the 2,700 cases I’ve decided were decided unanimously — and that I’ve been in the majority 99 percent of the time”.

Day two’s hearing will continue into the evening and then testimony and questions will begin again on Wednesday, with senators limited to 20 minutes in their questioning as compared to the 30 minutes they were each afforded today..

Should Senators support the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch?


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— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: U.S. Senate Historical Office / Public Domain)

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