Later this morning at 11AM EST, Neil Gorsuch will take the stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee for three full, fun-packed days of grueling testimony that will no doubt come complete with several outbursts from disaffected liberal protesters and faux outrage from Democratic committee members. According to Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel will hear opening statements from committee members and Gorsuch on Monday, then begin questioning him on Tuesday.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has vowed that the Senate will vote on the Gorsuch nomination before leaving April 8 for its Easter recess. If confirmed, Gorsuch would take the bench in time to hear the last two weeks of courtroom argument left in the current Supreme Court term.
And while Democrats have vowed to fight his nomination “tooth and nail”, Tom Goldstein, a Washington DC lawyer and publisher of the ScotusBlog, said it would be “shocking” if Gorsuch wasn’t confirmed in the coming weeks. Per NBC:
“It would be shocking if Neil Gorsuch wasn’t confirmed to the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.”
“The Democrats are committed to opposing him. Their base is insisting on it, because of what happened to President Obama’s nominee. But the reality is, they just don’t have the votes and don’t have the goods.”
Of course, many of the Democrats on the panel will undoubtedly take a hostile tone during the hearings as they, like their leader Chuck Schumer, feel that Scalia’s seat was ‘stolen’ from the Obama administration after Republicans refused to hold a hearing on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. If this interview is any indication of how the hearings will be conducted then we could be in for some fireworks:
For now, Gorsuch needs the support of at least eight Democrats to avoid a filibuster and win confirmation in the 52-48 GOP majority Senate. If Republicans can’t get Gorsuch past the 60-vote filibuster threshold,
they could go “nuclear” by removing the filibuster and eliminating not only Democrats’ ability to filibuster Gorsuch but other Supreme Court nominations to come.
With that, per The Hill, here are the 5 things to watch for during Gorsuch’s testimony:
1. How will Gorsuch handle pressure from Democrats to speak out against Trump?
Right out of the gate, Democrats are likely to ask Gorsuch what he thinks about Trump’s recent attacks on the judges who have ruled against his travel ban.
Gorsuch called Trump’s remarks “disheartening and demoralizing” in a closed door meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) last month, but refused the senator’s request to make the statements publicly.
When a federal judge halted Trump’s original order banning Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States, the president referred to him as a “so-called judge” and called his order “ridiculous.”
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!’ Trump tweeted.
As a member of the judiciary committee, the questions are likely to come from Blumenthal, who said last month that Gorsuch must prove he has the courage and independence to stand up to the president in public.
Now that two federal judges have blocked Trump’s revised travel order, Gorsuch is sure to be asked whether he thinks the ban is constitutional.
2. Where do red-state Democrats fall on Gorsuch?
Since Republicans need 60 votes, the GOP will be looking to Democrats from swing or deep-red states for the eight votes they need across the aisle.
Support could come from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who is running for re-election in North Dakota, a reliably red state. She was reportedly one of the few Democrats to publicly say she would oppose a filibuster.
There’s also Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who has said he doesn’t believe Democrats should play games with the confirmation.
Senators facing tough re-election fights, like Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), might also be swayed. Her state voted for the GOP presidential nominee in 2016 for the first time in decades, and conservative groups are pressuring her not to block this nomination.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee ran an ad in Michigan during the University of Michigan versus Michigan State men’s basketball game on ESPN last month. The ad told viewers to call Stabenow and tell her to “put your country ahead of your party” and allow a vote on Gorsuch, The Detroit News reported.
3. How much does Gorsuch reveal about his views?
Gorsuch’s record shows very little, if anything, about where he stands on conservative issues like abortion and money in politics, while lawmakers could also press him on his position on gun rights.
Democrats will likely ask Gorsuch about whether he’d vote to overturn the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationally.
Some have said the book he wrote in 2006, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” signals that Gorsuch is anti-abortion.
In the book, Gorsuch premised the argument for retaining current laws that ban the practice “on the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons in always wrong.”
Gorsuch is also likely to be asked about his views on Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) compares Gorsuch to Chief Justice John Roberts, who was calm and careful when he answered questions during his confirmation process. But, Schumer said, Roberts went on to become one of the most activist justices the country has seen, voting with the conservative majority in cases like Citizen United.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) office has in recent days also gone after Gorsuch on the issue of guns, with a release Friday highlighting what it called a “troubling record on gun safety.”
The top Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat’s office highlighted portions of past cases involving the possession of firearms for convicted felons or domestic violence abusers to label the judge a “pro-gun extremist.”
4. Will Gorsuch give liberals any ammunition?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is confidant Gorsuch will get confirmed. “He’s very, very hard to oppose,” McConnell told Bret Baier during an appearance on Fox News’s Special Report last month.
But Democrats will be looking for anything they can use against him. Question are likely to come about recent reports in The New York Times on Gorsuch’s ties to conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz and work defending George W. Bush’ anti-terror policies.
5. Will Gorsuch keep his composure?
Both sides know that composure, style and tone all play into a nominee’s chances of winning confirmation.
Democrats aiming to draw some emotion from him are likely to play up the human impact of his rulings.
Schumer and Blumenthal held a press conference last week with people Gorsuch ruled against in three different cases while on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In one case, he sided with a trucking company that fired a driver for abandoning his cargo after his truck broke down in freezing temperatures. In another case, Gorsuch ruled against a professor at the University of Kansas who was battling cancer. He said the school did not have to give her more than six months of sick leave under the Rehabilitation Act.
He also wrote the majority opinion in a case that prevented a nurse from seeking compensation from Medtronics for injuries she claimed were caused by the company’s improper, off-label promotion of its Infuse bone-graft device.