Repub­li­cans line up to sup­port Gor­such

Democrats crit­i­cise judge’s ‘orig­i­nal­ist’ stance on con­sti­tu­tion

Financial Times Middle East - - International - DAVID J LYNCH — WASH­ING­TON

Repub­li­cans backed judge Neil Gor­such as a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to jus­tice An­tonin Scalia while Democrats la­belled him an extremist who would im­peril the rights of women, work­ers and mi­nori­ties as the Se­nate ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee yes­ter­day be­gan con­sid­er­ing his Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion.

Repub­li­can se­na­tor Charles Grass­ley, the panel’s chair­man, said Mr Gor­such recog­nised the dif­fer­ence be­tween law­mak­ers and judges, and would demon­strate re­straint in ap­ply­ing the law. “Judges are not free to re­write statutes to get re­sults they think are more just .”

Se­na­tor Shel­don White­house, a Rhode Is­land Demo­crat, said Mr Gor­such would ce­ment a pro-busi­ness Supreme Court line-up that has de­liv­ered Repub­li­cans a se­ries of 5-4 ver­dicts in re­cent years. Un­der John Roberts, chief jus­tice, the court was “essen­tially a de­liv­ery ser­vice” for cor­po­rate in­ter­ests, Mr White­house said.

At the heart of the de­bate over Mr Gor­such is a dis­pute over how Supreme Court jus­tices should re­gard the con­sti­tu­tion. “Orig­i­nal­ist” jus­tices in­clud­ing Mr Gor­such say the court should in­ter­pret the con­sti­tu­tion in light of the words’ mean­ing at the time they were writ­ten. Most Democrats say the court needs to take ac­count of so­ci­etal changes since the 18 th cen­tury.

“I firmly be­lieve the US con­sti­tu­tion is a liv­ing doc­u­ment in­tended to evolve as our coun­try evolves,” said Se­na­tor Dianne Fe­in­stein, the panel’s rank­ing Demo­crat.

Democratic se­na­tor Pa­trick Leahy said the orig­i­nal­ist doc­trine re­mained out­side the main­stream of ju­di­cial thought and he called Mr Gor­such an “ex­treme” nom­i­nee se­lected by right wing spe­cial in­ter­ests.

“The stakes for the Amer­i­can people couldn’ t be higher ,” Mr Leahy said.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump won plau­dits from Repub­li­cans for his nom­i­na­tion of Mr Gor­such, a judge who says his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Scalia caused him to shed tears when he learnt of his death last year.

Mr Gor­such, 49, is a fed­eral ap­peals court judge in Den­ver who is known both for his ad­her­ence to con­sti­tu­tional tra­di­tion and his writ­ing abil­ity. The son of a Ron­ald Rea­gan-era cab­i­net of­fi­cial, he grad­u­ated from Har­vard Law School and was a clerk for two Supreme Court jus­tices, An­thony Kennedy and By­ron White.

Mr Grass­ley yes­ter­day laid out a speedy timetable that would lead to a com­mit­tee vote on April 3, set­ting up a Se­nate de­ci­sion that week in ad­vance of the court’s next oral ar­gu­ments on April 17. If con­firmed by the Se­nate, Mr Gor­such would re­store the 5-4 con­ser­va­tive edge that ex­isted be­fore Sc ali a’ s death.

But Democrats re­main an­gry over Repub­li­cans’ re­fusal last year to al­low a vote on judge Mer­rick Gar­land, nom­i­nated by for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama to fill Scalia’s vacant seat. Mr Leahy called the Repub­li­can re­sis­tance, sup­ported by Mr Trump, an “ex­tra­or­di­nary block­ade”.

As the hear­ing be­gan, roughly two dozen protesters wear­ing red T-shirts em­bla­zoned #StopGor­such were in at­ten­dance.

Ms F ein­stein com­plained that Mr G or­such too of­ten sided with cor­po­ra­tions over work­ers and said his writ­ings“raise ques­tions” about whether or not he would sup­port the right to abor­tion iden­ti­fied in the court’s 1973 Roe v Wade de­ci­sion.

Se­na­tor Dick Durbin, an­other Demo­crat, said jus­tices must be in­de­pen­dent of the pres­i­dent who nom­i­nates them. “You are go­ing to have your hands full with this pres­i­dent. He is go­ing to keep you busy ,” Mr Du rb in said.

‘I be­lieve the con­sti­tu­tion is a liv­ing doc­u­ment in­tended to evolve as our coun­try evolves’

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