Senate Confirmation Hearings Under Way for Trump's Supreme Court Pick

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the former top Democrat on the committee, said Senate Republicans' refusal to hold a hearing on Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, amounted to a "court un-packing scheme", one of the "greatest stains" on the committee's history.

After thanking his family, his law clerks, and his mentors, he grew emotional talking about his late Uncle Jack, an Episcopal priest, and his childhood in Colorado.

Republican senators praised Gorsuch as exactly the kind of judge who should be elevated to the Supreme Court. "A product of the West, [Justice White] modeled for me judicial courage".

As Gorsuch sat through hours of 10-minute opening statements by Senate Judiciary Committee members, some Republicans played defense, looking to distance Gorsuch from Trump and the fractious months-long standoff over Garland's nomination. Instead they have tasked themselves with probing for weak spots in a nominee who for many legal observers has a close-to-spotless paper trail. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told Gorsuch during the hearing.

Democrats expressed doubts about whether Gorsuch, now a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, could be an independent voice, standing up to Trump or big corporations when necessary.

Sasse characterized Gorsuch as a man who would say to those lawmakers, "I'm not an emperor, I'm a judge". Chris Coons (D) of DE, a member of the Judiciary Committee, in an exclusive interview with the Monitor.

"If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be", he said, "the very idea of government by the people and for the people would be at risk". "The balance of faith and freedom, the balance of free exercise rights and autonomy or self-determination rights, are pretty fundamental questions that go back to the foundation of our country".

He has sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the Burwell v. Many liberal interest groups regard this nomination as a "stolen" Supreme Court seat.

Gorsuch said he has agreed with the majority opinion 99% of the time on the appeals court, belying criticism that he is somehow out of the mainstream.

"All of us face the problem of complicity. All of us must answer for ourselves whether and to what degree we are willing to be involved in the wrongdoing of others", he wrote in his opening.

However, "for all its imperfections, I believe the rule of law in this nation truly is a wonder, and that it's no wonder that it's the envy of the world".

Judge Gorsuch outlined how law firms, and companies in general, had to ask female interviewees about pregnancy plans in order to protect the company. He will get plenty of help from Republicans who say the only pattern he's shown is his adherence to what the law requires.

Many conservatives also share Gorsuch's view on public displays of religion, with the judge dissenting from majorities in the 10th Circuit on cases that struck down an Oklahoma county's Ten Commandments display (Gorsuch said the Commandments are not "just religious" and thus don't violate the Constitution), and that ruled the Utah Highway Patrol couldn't erect 12-foot crosses to memorialize fallen officers. Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said he expects a committee vote on Gorsuch's nomination on April 3, which would allow the full Senate to take up the nomination that week.

In a bid to place hurdles in the way of Gorsuch's confirmation, 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.

"What we're doing is going to destroy the judiciary over time", he said.

"We are witnessing a singular moment of constitutional and democratic unease", she said, referring to what she described as attacks against the press and religious minorities by the Trump administration and the effort by Russian Federation to undermine the 2016 USA presidential election.

  • Larry Hoffman