Judge Neil Gorsuch is President Trump’s nominee to take the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, which was left open after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. He also seems to be handling his confirmation hearings with ease in the face of Democrats who seek to postpone any progress.
Gorsuch, who is an appellate judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, was hand-picked by Trump as his nominee. Trump described the Denver-based judge as “a man who our country really needs, and needs badly, to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice.”
“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said during the official announcement. He was standing beside the judge and his wife, Louise, as White House officials and Republican lawmakers looked on. “It is an extraordinary résumé — as good as it gets.”
Upon hearing of Gorsuch’s nomination, Democrats began to rally around and see what they could do to stop or delay his confirmation. Knowing that Judge Gorsuch is a firm believer in upholding the law, and any ruling he has made can support that, liberals quickly realized they were in for an uphill battle. Finally, in a seemingly defeated tone, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority leader, released a statement. He said, “Now, more than ever, we need a Supreme Court justice who is independent, eschews ideology, who will preserve our democracy, protect fundamental rights and will stand up to a president who has already shown a willingness to bend the Constitution. The burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans.” That’s probably the closest a Democrat can get to endorsing a Republican president’s SCOTUS nominee.
This week, the House Judiciary Committee kicked off Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings. With every attempt the Democrats made to put him on the spot, or push him to make a decision that should not have been ask of him, the judge gave concise, direct answers and shut them down repeatedly.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) brought up the discussion of a group that claims to be pouring money into a campaign to make sure Gorsuch is confirmed. Knowing that it would bring politics into the confirmation hearing of a Supreme Court nominee, Whitehouse pushed Gorsuch into disclosing information on the group and the money they have spent so far. Gorsuch declined, stating that it would make it a political move on his end, and judges are to remain apolitical. After the slap in the face to Whitehouse, the judge informed the senator that “if you want to know who they are, ask them yourself.” He concluded, “With all respect, the ball’s in your court.”
After putting Sen. Whitehouse in his place, Gorsuch moved on to more digging from other Democrats.
Judge Gorsuch was asked to address the Obama nominee who never got his chance at a confirmation, Judge Merrick Garland. In a surprise statement, Gorsuch praised Garland and his accomplishments throughout his career. “Whenever I see his name attached to an opinion, it’s one I read with special care,” Judge Gorsuch said, praising Garland as “an outstanding judge.”
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) tried pushing Gorsuch into a corner once again by asking him if he thought the way Garland was treated by the GOP members of Congress was seen as fair in his own opinion. Understanding the law and the rules that keep him from answering the question, Gorsuch responded, “I can’t get involved in politics. There’s judicial canons that prevent me from doing that. And I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes.” Realizing his question had been dismissed, and even worse on lawful grounds, Sen. Leahy replied with a shaky voice, “I can express an opinion. I think it was shameful.”
Gorsuch was also asked about more pressing issues that take center stage in our current political climate.
During his presidential campaign last year, and again after his inauguration, President Trump said that he would look to appoint Supreme Court justices who would work to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Gorsuch if Trump ever asked him to overturn Roe v. Wade in his interview with the president. The landmark decision from 1973 ruled that the 14th Amendment, which defines national citizenship and forbids the states from restricting the basic rights of citizens, should be extended to women who decide to have an abortion. Gorsuch answered simply, but with a stern demeanor, “No … I would have walked out the door.” He concluded, “That’s not what judges do.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said Gorsuch would have to explain his position on Roe v. Wade more-so than other nominees because of Trump’s statements on nominating judges who are opposed to abortion. “If you fail to be explicit and forthcoming and definite in your responses, we have to assume that you will pass the Trump litmus test,” Blumenthal said.
Gorsuch replied to Blumenthal, “I have offered no promises on how I’d rule to anyone on any case. I don’t believe in litmus tests for judges.” Speaking more about his views on Roe v. Wade, Judge Gorsuch said, “I would tell you that Roe vs. Wade, decided in 1973, is the precedent of the United States Supreme Court.” He went on to say that “all of the other factors that go into analyzing precedent have to be considered.”
When prompted by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who is chairman of the committee, to explain his views on precedent in general, Gorsuch returned with the perfect reply.
“My personal views, I tell you, Mr. Chairman, are over here. I leave those at home,” Gorsuch said. “I know some people in this room have some opinions on that,” he said, declining to elaborate. “As a good judge, you don’t approach that question anew as if it has never been decided,” he added.
From the looks of it, Gorsuch knows exactly how to handle his confirmation hearing, and many are expecting very little opposition from any members of the House Judiciary Committee. He knows the law, and he promises to uphold it if he is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice. Democrats are learning rather quickly that they need to either pose better questions or get out of the way. The baseless inquiries they have are only proving their own incompetence and lack of knowledge when it comes to the expectations of a judge.