Process filled with tradition
washington» Thirteen months after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Senate is finally holding confirmation hearings to fill the vacancy, considering President Donald Trump’s choice of Denver native Neil Gorsuch for the high court. The process is arduous, with dozens of one-on-one meetings with senators in recent weeks giving way to days of testimony starting Monday. Gorsuch and the Judiciary Committee’s 20 members will give opening statements that day. Gorsuch will answer questions Tuesday and Wednesday, and outside witnesses will testify Thursday.
• The Constitution: It lays out the process in just a few words, saying the president shall nominate Supreme Court justices “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.” Senate rules and tradition dictate the rest.
• Day one: On Monday, Gorsuch will have to sit through 10minute statements from each of the 20 members of the committee. After that, he will deliver his own 10-minute opening statement.
• Questions: In past hearings, the questions have centered around the nominee’s legal qualifications, decisions as a judge, positions on political issues, interpretations of the Constitution, general legal philosophy and current legal controversies.
• Other witnesses: The fourth day of the hearings, Thursday, will feature outside witnesses, usually former colleagues and advocacy groups who will testify for or against Gorsuch.
• The committee vote: Instead of approving or rejecting the nominee, the committee traditionally reports the nomination favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation so the full Senate can have the ultimate say.
• The procedural votes: Gorsuch is expected to have support from more than half the Senate, but getting to that vote will require procedural maneuvers. Some Democrats have said they will try to hold up the nomination, which means Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will have to hold a procedural vote requiring 60 votes to move forward.
• The real vote: Once the Senate gets past procedural votes, it can hold a simple majority vote to confirm. In recent years, senators have sat at their desks during a Supreme Court vote and stood one by one to cast their votes.