Republicans line up to support Gorsuch
Democrats criticise judge’s ‘originalist’ stance on constitution
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’