The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee, split along party lines over whether Neil Gorsuch should be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, is facing a political tug-of-war this week over the confirmation and are seeing him in two clearly different ways.
GOP legislators have praised Gorsuch, a 10th Circuit Federal Appeals Court justice who was nominated by President Trump, as a fiercely independent judge, while Democrats say his testimony “diluted with ambiguity” makes him the wrong choice.
“He’s a mainstream judge who’s earned the universal respect of his colleagues on the bench and in the bar,” said Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. “He applies the law as we in Congress write it_as the judicial oath says, without respect to persons. And he refuses to compromise his independence.”
However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel, was heavily critical Gorsuch’s responses to testimony questions. “Judge Gorsuch’s views were difficult to discern because he refused to answer questions, even basic questions that had been answered by previous nominees,” Feinstein said.
As of Monday morning, 39 Democrats and one independent have announced they will vote to block the nomination on a procedural cloture vote — a parliamentary step to advance the nomination — and oppose the choice.
Feinstein, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Mark Warner of Virginia all said for the first time Monday that they’d vote to block. On Sunday, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who is up for re-election next year in a state Trump won handily, announced his opposition on Sunday.
“With Judge Gorsuch on the bench, I am deeply concerned that dark money will continue to drown out the voices and votes of citizens, the court will stand between women and their doctors, and the government will reach into the private lives of law-abiding Americans. These are not Montana values, which is why I cannot support this nomination,” Tester said in a statement.
Democrats have vowed to block the nominee and a Senate filibuster is possible. Minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said he didn’t expect Gorsuch to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster threat. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is likely to change Senate rules — the so-called “nuclear option” — so that Gorsuch can be confirmed with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber instead of the 60 votes now required.