Supreme Court pick Gorsuch would have ‘no difficulty’ ruling against Trump
21 March 2017
- From the section US & Canada
Donald Trump’s pick for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court has insisted he would have no difficulty ruling against the man who nominated him.
Neil Gorsuch told his Senate hearing that no-one had asked him to make any promises on how he would rule.
Asked about abortion, he said the key Roe v Wade case was a precedent of the Supreme Court, reaffirmed many times.
But he refused to say how he would rule in any given case, as that would be the “beginning of the end of independence”.
Mr Gorsuch, nominated for the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia 13 months ago, is facing two days of intense grilling in the Senate Judicial Committee.
The first question on Tuesday, from chairman Chuck Grassley, asked if he would have “any trouble ruling against a president who appointed you”.
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- Who are the current eight justices?
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- What is the nuclear option?
Mr Gorsuch said: “I have no difficulty ruling against, or for, any party, other than based on what the law and facts in the particular case require.
“There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country.”
Insisting on the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature, he said: “Judges would make pretty rotten legislators – we are life tenured, you can’t get rid of us, it would be a pretty poor way to run a democracy.”
He was later asked directly if he was a surrogate for President Trump and replied: “No.”
Ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein spent her 30 minutes touching on three areas Mr Gorsuch will continue to be pressed on – abortion, gun control and employee rights.
Ms Feinstein asked whether the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v Wade, which legalised abortion, should be protected as a “super precedent” – a ruling so ingrained in law it is hard to overturn.
Mr Gorsuch acknowledged the case was a reaffirmed precedent, but added: “I’m not in a position to tell you whether I personally like or dislike a precedent. That’s not relevant to my job.”
Mr Gorsuch told Senator Lindsey Graham that he had not met Mr Trump before his interview for the post.
Mr Graham asked if Mr Trump had called on him in the interview to overturn Roe v Wade. Mr Gorsuch said “No”, and that if he had done so, “I would have walked out of the door.”
On employee rights, Democrats have targeted Mr Gorsuch’s dissenting opinion supporting a transportation firm that sacked a driver for defying an order to stay in a freezing, broken-down lorry.
Mr Gorsuch said that in 2,700 opinions he had given, he had often ruled “for the little guy instead of the big guy”.
The hearing began on Monday with angry exchanges among Democrats and Republicans over why former President Barack Obama’s choice for the post, Merrick Garland, had not been given a hearing last year.
It remains unclear whether Democrats will try to block Mr Gorsuch’s confirmation.
If they do, their options are limited.
Republicans control the Senate and they can change the chamber’s rules to make it easier to confirm Mr Gorsuch if any attempt is made to block him.
They hope to have Judge Gorsuch, currently a judge on the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, confirmed before Congress leaves for recess on 7 April.
How does the process work?
- Monday: Each of the 20 committee members reads a 10-minute statement, followed by Mr Gorsuch
- Tuesday-Wednesday: Each committee member grills Mr Gorsuch on a range of political and legal issues
- Thursday: Outside witnesses testify for or against the nomination
- Committee vote: Members report the nomination to the full Senate, favourably, unfavourably or without recommendation
- Senate procedural vote: Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Senate but Democrats can push to raise the required threshold to 60 votes. If they do, Republicans can use the so-called “nuclear option” to change the rules to allow a lower vote threshold
- Senate full vote: Will be a simple majority, if the above procedural hurdles are overcome