Democrats preview line of attack on high court nominee

Confirmation hearings get underway next week for for conservative Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia

Aaron P. Bernstein—Reuters
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) speaks with President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch at his office on Capitol Hill on March 7.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate confirmation hearings get underway for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch next week. The seat Gorsuch was nominated to fill was a prominent issue in the 2016 presidential race as voters considered who should pick a justice to fill the ninth seat on an ideologically split bench.Senate Democrats this week revealed their strategy for questioning the reportedly even keel judge with a reputation for scholarly conservatism. Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that at his confirmation hearing next week they will argue that Gorsuch is a conservative activist with a pro-corporate bias in his rulings as an appeals court judge.”Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge, but his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right-wing, pro-corporate, special-interest legal agenda,” Schumer said.Schumer appeared on Capitol Hill with several individual plaintiffs that Gorsuch ruled against in his position as a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.”He expresses a lot of empathy and sympathy for the less powerful,” Schumer said, “but when it comes to time to rule, when the chips are down, far too often he sides with the powerful few over everyday Americans just trying to get a fair shake.”Conservative legal activists who support the nomination say that Democrats are cherry-picking a small number of rulings that distort Gorsuch’s 11-year record as a judge.The Republican-controlled Senate has to approve the appointment for it to take effect. Last year they refused to consider former president Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy caused by the February 2016 death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia, arguing at the time that with less than a year before the nation chooses a new president, the 45th one should make that call.Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate 52-48, but Schumer repeated his view that Gorsuch would need to win 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to move toward confirmation. Democrats can seek to use a procedural maneuver to block a confirmation vote if Gorsuch’s supporters cannot muster 60 votes, although Republicans could change the Senate rules.