Published: Mon, March 20, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Day 1 Of Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

Day 1 Of Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

At a Monday confirmation hearing for Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Leahy accused Republicans of engaging in a scheme to "unpack" the court by blocking Obama's nominee with almost a year left in his term.

They hope to have Judge Gorsuch, now a judge on the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, confirmed before Congress leaves for recess on 7 April.

The court's ideological balance is at stake.

The clerks said they hailed from different points on the political spectrum but all endorsed Gorsuch, who himself clerked for Sentelle on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1991-92.

Thirteen months after Antonin Scalia's death created a vacancy on the Supreme Court, hearings get underway on President Donald Trump's nominee to replace him.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, highlighted the American Bar Association's unanimous well qualified rating for Gorsuch, noting that Democrats have previously referred to the ABA's rating as the gold standard for evaluating judicial nominees. Republicans hold 52 of the Senate's 100 seats. But Senate Democrats have appeared divided on their strategy, with any delay tactics potentially risking a change to the Senate rules by Republicans that would decrease the influence that the minority party has on future Supreme Court nominations. "We have no doubt that he'll be the same kind of Justice on the Supreme Court". Sisk said that this was the second-to-last class of the semester, and it was unlikely that Gorsuch was playing a devil's advocate role to spark discussion in the class, and that "hadn't been the style he had been using to sort of raise issues all class, or all semester".

Though Gorsuch's confirmation requires 60 votes, McConnell could trigger what is called the "nuclear option" to nominate Gorsuch with a simple majority if Democrats choose to filibuster.

Judge Gorsuch's hearing is set to begin at Monday afternoon and is expected to continue for the next several days.

Bob Phillips, executive director of the non-partisan good government group Common Cause, said American democracy is "under threat".

In 2013, then Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid went nuclear to prevent filibusters on cabinet nominees and lower court judges. Now, she said, it is the committee's task "to determine whether Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable mainstream conservative, or is he not?" Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, promised to oppose Gorsuch's nomination "relentlessly" if Gorsuch doesn't "reject Trump's litmus test". Gorsuch in 2013 sided with Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., whose owners objected to providing the birth-control coverage required under Obamacare. "Justice Ginsberg, Justice Breyer. were not asked those questions, and Judge Gorsuch should not be either". And others will use the hearings to raise concerns about the direction of the Roberts Court in the Trump Era, given the large array of critical issues that could soon come before SCOTUS, including some that were stalled past year due to a deadlocked Court awaiting Scalia's replacement.

Among questions Gorsuch will face will be whether he is sufficiently independent from Trump, who has criticized judges for ruling against his bid to restrict travel from Muslim-majority countries. A study performed by legal scholars determined that the 49-year-old's ideology is in line with that of his predecessor Scalia, a favorite among conservatives.

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