Gor­such brushes off Democrats’ at­tacks

Nom­i­nee’s re­fusal to ad­dress specifics angers Democrats.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Erica Werner and Mark Sher­man

On a glide path to­ward con­fir­ma­tion, Supreme Court nom­i­nee Neil Gor­such par­ried fresh at­tacks from Democrats on abor­tion and spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion, in­sist­ing that “when you put on the robe, you open your mind” as he faced a fi­nal day be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day.

Frus­trated Democrats, un­able to get much out of the Den­ver-based ap­peals court judge over 11 hours of ques­tion­ing a day ear­lier, sug­gested they might not vote to con­firm him early next month. Re­gard­less, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell has made clear this week that he will see that Gor­such is con­firmed one way or an­other in the GOP-con­trolled Se­nate.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, top Demo­crat on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, gave voice to wide­spread Demo­cratic com­plaints Wed­nes­day about Gor­such, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pick for the high court.

Gor­such has said re­peat­edly that he would ad­here to the rule of law and re­spect the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary, but he has re­fused to ad­dress specifics on any num­ber of is­sues, from abor­tion and guns, to al­low­ing cam­eras in the court­room, to the treat­ment of the fed­eral judge nom­i­nated last year to the Supreme Court va­cancy but de­nied a hear­ing by Repub­li­cans.

“What wor­ries me is you have been very much able to avoid any speci­ficity like no one I have ever seen be­fore,” Fe­in­stein told Gor­such. “And maybe that’s a virtue, I don’t know. But for us on this side, know­ing where you stand on ma­jor ques­tions of the day is re­ally im­por­tant to a vote ‘aye,’ and so that’s why we pressed and pressed.”

Gor­such re­peated his gen­eral com­mit­ments to ad­her­ing faith­fully to prece­dent, the law and in­de­pen­dence.

“I care about the law, I care deeply about the law and an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary and fol­low­ing the rules of the law,” he told Fe­in­stein. “And that’s the com­mit­ment I can make to you, I can’t prom­ise you more and I can’t guar­an­tee you any less.”

Fe­in­stein pressed Gor­such on the is­sue of abor­tion and the pos­si­bil­ity the Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion le­gal­iz­ing it could be over­turned: “This is real life, and young women take ev­ery­thing for granted to­day and all of that could be struck out with one de­ci­sion.”

Gor­such replied, “All I can prom­ise you is that I will ex­er­cise the care and con­sid­er­a­tion, due prece­dent, that a good judge is sup­posed to.”

The hear­ing took place against the back­drop of the tur­moil of Trump’s young pres­i­dency. Democrats in­clud­ing Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer are de­mand­ing a pause in Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion pend­ing the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of al­leged ties be­tween Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and Rus­sia. Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa dis­missed that as “ridicu­lous,” and McCon­nell told The As­so­ci­ated Press: “Gor­such will be con­firmed. I just can’t tell you ex­actly how that will hap­pen yet.”

For Repub­li­cans, Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion is a bright spot that could go far to com­pen­sate for Trump’s var­i­ous other mis­steps and mis­state­ments. “I think Pres­i­dent Trump, with all of his prob­lems and all of his mis­takes, chose wisely when it came to this man,” Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C.., de­clared at Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing.

The con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing will wrap up with a panel of out­side wit­nesses talk­ing about Gor­such, be­fore a com­mit­tee vote ex­pected April 3 and a Se­nate floor vote later that same week.

Repub­li­cans con­trol the Se­nate 52-48 so would re­quire eight Democrats to move Gor­such past pro­ce­dural hur­dles, and thus far no Demo­crat has said they will sup­port the judge. But McCon­nell could also change Se­nate rules to con­firm Gor­such with a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, and ap­pears pre­pared to take that step.

JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN / GETTY IMAGES

Judge Neil Gor­such talks with his wife, Marie Louise Gor­such, at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing Wed­nes­day be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. He re­peated his com­mit­ments to ad­her­ing faith­fully to prece­dent, the law and in­de­pen­dence.

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