Senate Democrats are preparing for next week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and previewed their case Wednesday that Judge Neil Gorsuch’s rulings have favored corporations over individuals.
“Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “But his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate, special interest agenda.”
President Donald Trump’s nominee for the court has been making the rounds to Senate offices ahead of his confirmation hearings next week. Questions remain as to whether Democrats would block Gorsuch’s nomination on a procedural vote, but they are holding their fire until after the hearings, which begin Monday.
“I think many of my colleagues are skeptical but waiting for the hearings,” Schumer said Wednesday.
“I have touched base with a good number of my colleagues,” the New York Democrat added. “After the hearings, I intend to make my views very strongly known to them. Each member will make his or her own decision, but I think there’s a great deal of skepticism about Judge Gorsuch based on his record.”
Some Democrats are still reeling from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell′s decision not to fill the vacancy with former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Federal Judge Merrick Garland. When Justice Antonin Scalia died last year, Republicans refused to hold a hearing or a vote on Obama’s pick to fill the seat, arguing that Americans should decide the direction of the court through the presidential election.
Republicans would need at least eight Democrats to vote with them and cross the 60-vote threshold to end debate on Gorsuch’s nomination. If Republicans cannot get to 60 votes, they could change the Senate rules and lower that threshold. McConnell has not said whether he would do so, but has emphasized that Gorsuch will be confirmed.
Schumer was skeptical that Republicans would go so far to change the rule to end debate. He noted that some Republicans are against the change, and pointed out that Democrats left the threshold in place for Supreme Court nominees, despite lowering it for other executive branch and judicial nominees in 2013.
“If a nominee cannot get 60 votes, you don’t change the rules, you change the nominee,” Schumer said.
What You Likely Won’t Hear from Gorsuch in Senate Hearings — and Why
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he is prepared to vote against ending debate, effectively blocking Gorsuch’s nomination.
Blumenthal said he plans to question Gorsuch on worker protections, consumer rights, privacy rights and the value of an independent judiciary.
Gorsuch had previously told Blumenthal that he was disheartened by Trump’s attacks on the judiciary and judges who ruled against the president’s policies. But Democrats have said Gorsuch needs to state publicly that he does not support Trump’s remarks.
At their Wednesday press conference, Blumenthal and Schumer highlighted three of Gorsuch’s cases by bringing the people involved in those cases to the Capitol to show how Gorsuch impacted their lives.
“When Judge Gorsuch issued his ruling, he didn’t think about the impact this had on our family. Our only source of income was lost,” Katherine Hwang told reporters.
Hwang’s late mother Grace was a professor at Kansas State University. After battling leukemia, her doctors advised her not to return to work in the midst of a flu outbreak at the school since her immune system was weakened. But the university declined to extend her sick leave.
Her case was dismissed and so she appealed to the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, where Gorsuch upheld the dismissal.
“Ms. Hwang’s is a terrible problem, one in no way of her own making, but it’s a problem other forms of social security aim to address,” Gorsuch wrote in his ruling. “The Rehabilitation Act seeks to prevent employers from callously denying reasonable accommodations that permit otherwise qualified disabled persons to work — not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work.”
“This ruling set the precedent that a company’s needs come before those who are disabled,” Hwang said. “Such rulings are what weaken my faith in the justice system.”
Republicans have argued that Gorsuch is a fair and extremely qualified jurist, and quick to point out that he has earned some bipartisan praise.
McConnell cited on the Senate floor Wednesday a recent Washington Post op-ed by David Frederick, who described himself as a “longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes.”
“The Senate should confirm [Gorsuch],’ Frederick said, ‘because there is no principled reason to vote no,’” McConnell said on the floor. “This is a board member of the Left’s flagship legal group in America. And, on this point, he happens to be absolutely right.”
McConnell is looking to swiftly confirm Gorsuch to the high court. He has said he plans to use the final week before the mid-April recess to take up the nomination.