One of the Senate’s most conservative members says Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch showed lawmakers and the nation this week why he is a tremendous choice for the high court, while also rejecting the attempts of Democrats to discredit Gorsuch and promising President Trump’s choice will be confirmed.
Thursday was the third marathon day of questions for Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was already impressed with Gorsuch but says this week is further evidence Gorsuch belongs on the high court.
Lee says his biggest takeaway from the hearings is the consistency of Gorsuch.
“This judge is the same in every setting in which I’ve interacted with him, whether it’s in a courtroom when I was a lawyer, or whether it’s been in my office as he’s come by in anticipation of his confirmation process, or whether he’s on the hot seat in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he’s been this week,” said Lee, who is a former federal prosecutor and argued cases before Gorsuch at the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“He provides the same answers, the same thoughtful approach. He doesn’t change from one moment to the next. He’s considerate of the law. He has great respect for the Constitution. That’s exactly the kind of person we need on the Supreme Court,” said Lee.
Democrats spent three days prodding Gorsuch on everything from his own record to how Republicans treated Merrick Garland last year to his political opinions on issues that could come before the court.
Lee says Gorsuch handled the fire well.
“I think he handled every question that was thrown at him with grace and with a great deal of composure, even when things got heated,” said Lee.
Democrats are pursuing a number of strategies to slow down or stall Gorsuch. That includes a call for a delay on final confirmation until the investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign concludes.
Lee is having none of that.
“I don’t see any reason, as much as some would like to delay this particular vote on him, this is something that doesn’t need to be affected by circumstances,” said Lee.
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would vote to filibuster Gorsuch and would urge other Democrats to do the same.
Despite that effort, Lee thinks Gorsuch will sail past any filibuster.
“I think he’s going to get through. I think he’s going to get through with, perhaps, a whole lot of Democratic support. By the end of the hearing process, it felt like a love-fest, certainly on the Republican side of the aisle. And I sensed a tone of resignation on the part of some of my Democratic colleagues on the committee,” said Lee.
Democrats changed Senate rules in recent years to kill the filibuster for all nominees except for those tapped for the Supreme Court. Will Republicans change that rule if Democrats can muster a filibuster?
“Without engaging in hypothetical speculation about exactly what mechanism will be deployed here, I will say this very confidently, we’re going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed. One way or another, he will be confirmed,” vowed Lee.
During the hearings, Democrats deployed a number of strategies, starting with the complaint that the Supreme Court seat should already be filled by Judge Merrick Garland. Garland was nominated by President Obama but Senate Republicans did not hold hearings or votes, contending the next president should get to make the choice.
Lee says it’s time for Democrats to move past the Garland controversy.
“Some of them can choose to be upset if they want to, but I think it would be best for everyone if we focused on what’s before us, what’s happening now rather than what happened a year ago. If they look at this judge on the basis of his record, I think what they’re going to find is a sincere judge who just wants to find the right answer under the law,” said Lee.
Democrats also tried to get Gorsuch to speak out about his personal opinions on political issues that could wind up before the Supreme Court, including campaign financing and same-sex marriage.
While Gorsuch’s deflections frustrated Democrats, Lee says every nominee has taken the same approach in confirmation in recent years in order to maintain their impartiality.
“The fact that something like that comes up in a judicial confirmation hearing can itself be a cause for recusal if the judge engages in a significant discussion of the issue at hand. If we’re not careful, this can end up undermining the ability of our Supreme Court justices to do their jobs,” said Lee,
“The fact that Democrats pushed Judge Gorsuch as often as they did, as many times as they did, to wade into as many hot-button controversies as they chose to do doesn’t change the fact this is the standard. This is the rule and this has been the historical practice,”
In addition to seeking ammunition against Gorsuch, Lee says the political questions expose how Democrats seem to view the courts.
“They’re trying to make something where nothing really exists. They’re trying to convert the Supreme Court, perhaps, into an organ of public policy making,” said Lee.