LATEST PAPER
75° Good Morning
75° Good Morning
NewsPolitics

Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing: Trump's Supreme Court nominee faces senators

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch completed his 20-hour Senate confirmation hearing with the judiciary committee on Wednesday.

Gorsuch, a conservative federal appeals court judge from Colorado, got through the hearing largely unscathed. He did, however, avoid answering questions on what he thought about past cases on abortion, gun rights, political spending and religious rights.

"What worries me is you have been very much able to avoid any specificity, like no one I have ever seen before," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's top Democrat, told Gorsuch.

The committee will complete its deliberations on Thursday. Chairman Chuck Grassley said the committee is expected to vote on Gorsuch's nomination on April 3, and the full Senate will vote shortly after.

If confirmed, Gorsuch will restore the 5-4 conservative majority on the bench, filling the seat that has been open since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. He needs 60 votes to be confirmed, but Republicans could change the rules to allow him to be confirmed by a simple majority.

Here's a look as some of the key parts of the hearing so far.

Gorsuch vows independence from Trump

Gorsuch said he wouldn't have a problem ruling
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Gorsuch said he wouldn't have a problem ruling against Trump, attempting to establish independence from the president.

"I have no difficulty ruling against or for any party, other than based on what the law and facts in the particular case require. And I'm heartened by the support I have received from people who recognize that there's no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country," he said.

Upon further questioning on the topic, Gorsuch maintained that as a judge he is beyond politics.

"When I became a judge, they gave me a gavel, not a rubber stamp," Gorsuch said. "I am my own man."

Presidents must obey court orders

Sen. Patrick Leahy questioned Gorsuch about the comments
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong

Sen. Patrick Leahy questioned Gorsuch about the comments from Trump adviser Stephen Miller after federal courts blocked the president's travel ban. Miller had challenged the authority of courts and said the president's power to enforce the ban should not be questioned.

"I'm a judge now. I take that seriously. And you better believe I expect judicial decrees to be obeyed," Gorsuch said. "That's the rule of law in this country."

Criticizing motives of judiciary is 'disheartening'

Further demonstrating his independence from Trump, Gorsuch said
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Further demonstrating his independence from Trump, Gorsuch said he found the president's condemnation of federal judges who blocked his two travel bans to be "disheartening."

"When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity or the motives of a federal judge, well I find that disheartening, I find that demoralizing, because I know the truth," he said.

Gorsuch used similar language while speaking privately with senators back in February, but when his remarks made headlines, Trump suggested the judge's comments had been misrepresented.

Supreme Court rejects Gorsuch's legal reasoning

The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday unanimously rejected
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday unanimously rejected legal reasoning Gorsuch used as an appellate judge and ruled in favor of an autistic student who said he was denied an adequate education.

In 2008, Gorsuch ruled against an autistic child who wanted a public education more tailored to his needs. When asked about the ruling at his hearing, Gorsuch argued that he was following precedent. "If anyone says I like a result where an autistic child happens to lose, it's a heartbreaking accusation," he said.

No 'litmus test'

Some Democrats have criticized Trump for promising to
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Some Democrats have criticized Trump for promising to nominate a judge who would pass an anti-abortion "litmus test," but Gorsuch said he has not made any promises. "I have offered no promises on how I'd rule to anyone on any case," he said. "And I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so, no matter who's doing the asking."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, asked Gorsuch about Roe v. Wade and whether he considered the decision "super precedent."

"A good judge will consider it as precedent of the United States Supreme Court worthy of treatment of precedent like any other," Gorsuch said. "I'm not in a position to tell you whether I personally like or dislike a precedent. That's not relevant to my job."

Supreme Court decision on gay marriage is 'settled law'

Although Gorsuch sidestepped questions on cases regarding abortion,
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Although Gorsuch sidestepped questions on cases regarding abortion, gun rights, political spending and religious rights, he did say the issue of gay marriage, which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of in 2015, is "absolutely settled law."

Gorsuch praises Judge Merrick Garland

Gorsuch said Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Gorsuch said Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated for the vacant supreme court seat by former President Barack Obama, is "an outstanding judge."

"Whenever I see his name attached to an opinion, it's one I read with special care," Gorsuch said.

Republicans had refused to consider Garland, angering Democrats. When Sen. Patrick Leahy asked Gorsuch if Garland had been treated fairly, the judge said he "can't get involved in politics."

"I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes," he said.

No comment on travel ban

When asked about Trump's revised travel ban, Gorsuch
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

When asked about Trump's revised travel ban, Gorsuch said he can't talk about it because the issue is currently being litigated.

Gorsuch defends career

Democrats have tried to pin Gorsuch as a
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Stephen Crowley-Pool

Democrats have tried to pin Gorsuch as a fighter for the corporations, rather than for workers. They have cited a case where a trucker was fired after abandoning his cargo in freezing temperatures. Gorsuch had argued that the company had the right to fire the employee.

Sen. Richard Durbin said the temperature was "not as cold as your dissent, Judge Gorsuch," during the first day of the hearing.

But Gorsuch defended his career in his opening statement Monday. "My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me, only a judgment about the law and the facts at issue in each particular case," he said. "A good judge can promise no more than that. And a good judge should guarantee no less."

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos