The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Day one concludes
The committee recessed on Monday afternoon, after about four hours. The committee got through opening statements from its members and Gorsuch, and will begin questioning the nominee when the hearing reconvenes on Tuesday.
Gorsuch says he judges the law, not the people before him
Gorsuch said sometimes judges are seen as politicians in robes.
“If I thought that were true, I’d hang up the robe,” he said, adding that the conclusions judges reach aren't always the ones they personally prefer.
“Sometimes the answers follow us home at night and keep us up,” he said. "But the answers we reach are always the ones we believe the law requires."
In his decade on the bench, Gorsuch said he's tried to treat all those who come before him equally and fairly and afford equal rights to the poor and the rich.
"My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me, only a judgment about the laws and facts at issue in each particular case," he said. "A good judge can promise no more than that and a good judge should guarantee no less."
Committee swears in Gorsuch
The Senate Judiciary Committee officially swore Gorsuch in for his opening statement.
“Sitting here, I'm acutely aware of my own imperfections,” he said.
“My pledge to each of you and the American people [is] if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the constitution and laws of this great nation.”
He then thanked his wife, Lousie, for her support.
"The sacrifices she has made and her open and giving heart leave me in awe," he said. "I love you so much.”
Democrat praises Gorsuch’s ‘integrity and intellect’
Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetDems knock Trump on Earth Day Dem pushed plan for both sides to admit to abusing Senate rules: report Senators aim to extend federal conservation fund MORE (Colo.), one of the pivotal swing votes on the Gorsuch nomination, praised the nominee’s “outstanding integrity and intellect” and noted his “deep roots” in the state of Colorado.
Bennet recalled that one of Gorsuch grandfathers grew up in an Irish tenement in Denver and the other was a local lawyer who worked his way through law school as a street-car conductor in Denver.
“As a person and a lawyer, Judge Gorsuch exemplifies some of the finest qualities of Colorado,” he said, pointing to what he described as the relatively nonpartisan atmosphere of the state.
Bennet made his remarks in testimony introducing Gorsuch to the Judiciary Committee. Colorado's other senator, Cory GardnerCory GardnerPicking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations Reversal: Some Republicans now defending parts of ObamaCare MORE (R), also introduced the nominee.
Bennet noted that Gorsuch would be the first justice since Sandra Day O’Connor from the West.
He said the Senate has a constitutional duty to “give fair consideration to this nominee,” something he argued was denied President Obama’s recent nominee to the high court, Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But he warned that Gorsuch will have serve as a check on the Trump administration and defend the judiciary’s constitutional role, pointing to President Trump’s recent criticism of judges who have ruled against his controversial travel ban.
Bennet recently received a letter signed by more than 200 prominent lawyers in Colorado urging his support for Gorsuch.
Grassley cheers idea of cameras in Supreme Court
Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general, got cheers from committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyTrump eyeing second Supreme Court seat Grassley: Another Supreme Court vacancy likely this summer Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions MORE (R-Iowa) when he said he wishes the Supreme Court would televise its proceedings.
Grassley introduced legislation last week with Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWyden pushing to mandate 'basic cybersecurity' for Senate Senators press the FCC on rural broadband affordability Senators should stop trying to turn the Supreme Court into reality TV MORE (D-Minn.) that would allow all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the option of allowing their judicial proceedings to be photographed, recorded, broadcast or televised.
Katyal went on to voice his support for the confirmation of Gorsuch.
"In short — to make up a word — Judge Gorsuch has humability: humility and ability," he said.
Coons criticizes Gorsuch as an activist judge
Gorsuch has tried to position himself as an impartial arbiter who interprets the law neutrally, but Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsHow Gorsuch's confirmation shapes the next Supreme Court battle Coons: ‘Exactly the wrong time’ for State Dept cuts Dem pushed plan for both sides to admit to abusing Senate rules: report MORE (D-Del.) argued that he has shown an activist streak.
Coons said Trump’s nominee for the top court has shown a tendency to set forth legal principles outside the bounds of the cases that come before him.
He noted that his nomination has been driven by the “ideologically driven” Federal Society and Heritage Foundation.
“What stands out to me is your tendency to go beyond the issues that need to be resolved in the case before you.
“I’ve see a pattern in which you file dissents,” Coons said, citing dissents from denials of rehearings, concurrences and concurrences to his own majority opinions that “explore broader issues than what’s necessary” and promote “dramatic changes to this law.”
“These additional writings hint at an unwillingness to settle on a limited conclusion and forge a narrow consensus with your colleagues,” he said.
Coons appeared to reference Gorsuch’s concurrence in his own majority opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch in which he questioned the well-established Chevron Doctrine, a recurring theme of the first day of the confirmation hearings.
Gorsuch questioned whether executive branch agencies should continue to receive broad deference from the courts to interpret ambiguous statutes — a deference that the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia recognized.
In a dissent to a refusal to rehear a three-judge panel ruling in United States v. Nichols, Gorsuch argued that too much regulatory power had been given to the Justice Department to interpret the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
Blumenthal is first to bring up Russia
Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem senator rips Sessions’s ‘really bizarre’ Hawaii remark House panel to hold hearing on airline consumer issues Dem senator: Russia ‘unsuitable’ FIFA World Cup host MORE (D-Conn.) warned in his opening remarks that there is a constitutional crisis looming.
“Just hours ago, not far from here, the director of the FBI revealed that his agency is investigating potential ties between Trump's associates and Russian meddling in our election,” he said, referring to the House Intelligence Committee hearing where FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers are testifying.
“The possibility of the Supreme Court needing to enforce a subpoena against the president is no longer idle speculation. It did so in United States v. Nixon, so the independence of the judiciary is more important than ever and your defense of it is critical,” Blumenthal told Gorsuch.
Blumenthal told Gorsuch that a lot of the threats to the judiciary are coming from the man who nominated him.
He said it’s not enough to condemn Trump’s recent attacks on judges behind closed doors.
“I believe our system requires and demands you do it publicly, explicitly and directly,” he said.
Gorsuch called Trump’s remarks about the judges who ruled against his travel ban “disheartening” and “demoralizing” in a private meeting with Blumenthal last month, but he has refused the senator’s request to make those statements publicly.
Blumenthal: a lot of the threat to the independence of the judiciary "comes from the man who nominated you"— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) March 20, 2017
It's Gorsuch, not Grouch
Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeTrump wall faces skepticism on border No Congress members along Mexico border support funding Trump's wall Obama-linked group launches ads targeting Republicans on immigration MORE (R-Ariz.) said he had to give a speech recently and when it was fed into the teleprompter, Judge Gorsuch’s name was displayed as Judge Grouch.
“I had to be careful,” he said laughing.
“I think it’s safe to say by the end of this week, every spell check will know your name. Judge Grouch is about as far as you can get from Judge Gorsuch in terms of your temperament. That may change by the end of the week, as well though.”
Franken: Gorsuch pick part of Bannon strategy
Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenTwitter jumps on news of O'Reilly's ouster Senate Dems seek review of products linked to tax refunds House Democrat introduces bill to amend presidential removal procedures MORE (D-Minn.) on Monday warned that Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court is part of Trump adviser Stephen Bannon’s strategy to deconstruct “the administrative state.”
Franken noted that Gorsuch is distinct from sitting members of the Supreme Court, including the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat Gorsuch is filling, in his view of administrative law.
Gorsuch famously questioned whether the court’s Chevron Doctrine, which gives executive branch agencies wide latitude in interpreting laws, needs to be re-evaluated.
“To those who subscribe to Trump’s extreme view, Chevron is the only thing standing between them and what the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, called ‘deconstruction of the administrative state,’ which is shorthand for gutting any environmental or consumer protection measure that gets in the way of corporate profit margins,” Franken said in his opening remarks.
The Minnesota senator and possible presidential candidate in 2020, argued the doctrine is essential to recognizing the expertise that agencies have in the areas of their jurisdiction.
Speaking at a gathering of conservative activists last month, Bannon said Trump picked his Cabinet — which Republican lawmakers have hailed as the most conservative in memory — to weaken the accumulated power of the executive branch.
Bannon hailed “the best Cabinet in the history of Cabinets” as selected “for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”
Gorsuch embodies ‘black robe’
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said Gorsuch has views on policy preferences, but he doesn’t know what they are and “that’s a good thing.”
“When a Supreme Court justice puts on his or her robe we don’t want them confusing their job with the other branches, we want them policing the structure of their government to make sure each branch does its job, but only its job,” he said.
Sasse said he expected Gorsuch to show at this week’s hearing that he embodies what the black robe he wears represents: impartiality.
“When you put on your robe you are cloaking your personal preferences. You are cloaking your partisan views,” he said.
"There's not a red robe for Republicans and blue robe for Democrats. We issue here only black robes."
Cruz: Gorsuch carries a 'super-legitimacy'
Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWarren builds her brand with 2020 down the road Trump wall faces skepticism on border No Congress members along Mexico border support funding Trump's wall MORE (R-Texas) called Gorsuch “no ordinary nominee.”
Because Trump released a list of 21 prospective Supreme Court nominees during the during the election, Cruz said the public had an unprecedentedly direct role in helping choose Gorsuch.
“Given the engagement of the electorate nationally on this central issue I would suggest that Judge Gorsuch is no ordinary nominee," he said. "Because of this uniquely and transparent process unprecedented in American history his nomination carries with it a super-legitimacy that’s also unprecedented in our American history."
Klobuchar: 'We are no longer dealing with plows, bonnets'
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a potential White House hopeful in 2020, scored one of the most quotable lines of the hearings so far.
She rapped Gorsuch over his originalist approach to constitutional interpretation, arguing that reading the nation’s founding document as its authors conceived it 240 years ago is out of step with the nation’s modern problems.
Klobuchar said the founders couldn’t have even imagined many of the problems Americans face today.
“We are no longer dealing with plows, bonnets and colony debts in England but instead driverless cars, drones and cybercrimes, and those were just the topics of the hearings I attended last week,” she said.
Gorsuch throughout his career on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal has interpreted the law through an originalist lens. This propensity has led legal observers to compare him to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he would fill on the Supreme Court.
Klobuchar said judges need to interpret the law in a way that applies the concepts of justice enshrined in the Constitution but is not limited to their narrow historical contexts.
“I want to understand how your judicial philosophy, which as you suggests looks backward and not forward, may affect the rights of our fellow citizens,” she said.
Gorsuch overshadowed by Comey
Senate Democrats have tried to ratchet up the controversy surrounding Gorsuch’s nomination, but their public relations campaign is getting eclipsed by FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on the House side.
The cable news networks are transfixed by Comey’s appearance testifying on Russian interference in the 2016 election and are paying scant attention to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
The hallway outside the Intelligence Committee hearing room in House Longworth Building was jammed this morning with people eager to hear Comey.
Lines in the Hart Senate Office Building to see Gorsuch have been sparse by comparison.
This is good news for Gorsuch, who has flown below the public’s radar since Trump announced his nomination at the end of January.
Outside liberal groups pressured Democrats to step up their offensive against the nominee, angry over how little attention the debate has received.
Democrats have more work to do, as Trump’s wiretapping claims and the alleged influence Russian Vladimir Putin had on the presidential election are dominating the news.
Whitehouse says special interests strongly back Gorsuch
Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senators ask Bannon for more info about Breitbart contact Senate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs Senators offer bill to boost police training in cyber crime MORE (D-R.I.) asked Gorsuch if he’ll side with the conservative majority on the court and launch the court “five to four again” on a massive special interest and pro-Republican spree.
He noted that corporate interest groups have spent millions and millions campaigning to push his confirmation.
"They obviously think you will be worth their money," Whitehouse said. "These special interests also supported the Republican majority keeping this seat open."
Lee: Gorsuch 'remarkably uncontroversial'
Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeTrump should work with Congress to block regulations on prepaid cards Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions Executive orders alone can't create sustainable deregulatory change MORE (R-Utah) said Democrats’ claim that Gorsuch is outside the mainstream “doesn’t stick” with his reputation.
The last time Gorsuch came before the committee for hearings on his nomination to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Lee said there was no instance in his record that posed a problem amid the proceedings.
"Your nomination was so remarkably uncontroversial that one senator and only one senator, Senator Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamRussian interference looms over European elections Graham: I’m ‘all in’ for Trump Graham: US on a collision course with North Korea MORE [R-S.C.] was the only member who bothered to show up at your confirmation hearing,” he said.
Durbin calls Gorsuch decision 'cold'
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinTop Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms Top Dem: Shutdown over border wall would be 'height of irresponsibility' Sunday shows preview: Trump stares down 100-day mark MORE (D-Ill.) criticized Gorsuch for his decision while on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals against a truck driver who had been fired for leaving his cargo after waiting hours for a repair truck to come fix his brakes that had frozen in subzero temperatures.
“He waited and waited and the hours passed and he started feeling numb and sick. See, there was no heater in the truck and according to his recollection, it was so cold that it was 14 degrees below,” Durbin said, echoing a story also related by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinHotel industry details plans to fight Airbnb Congress needs a do-over on fraud-laden 'Immigrant Investor' program Ginsburg appears to refer to Graham as one of 'the women of the Senate' MORE (D-Calif.).
“Not as cold as your dissent Judge Gorsuch, which argued his firing was lawful.
Cornyn says high court about more than popular rights
Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump wall faces skepticism on border No Congress members along Mexico border support funding Trump's wall Obama-linked group launches ads targeting Republicans on immigration MORE (R-Texas) said it would be wrong for Gorsuch to prejudge cases.
He told Gorsuch that senators may ask for his commitment to support or oppose certain constitutional rights.
“You’re not a politician running for election, judge, as you know,” he said.
Leahy calls Gorsuch 'interest groups' pick
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyLawmakers talk climate for Earth Day, Science March Poll: Sanders most popular senator in the US Senate Dems offer bill to restore internet privacy rules MORE (D-Vt.) slammed Trump for leaning on special interest groups to hand-pick his Supreme Court nominee.
“I do not know of any other Supreme Court nominee who is selected by interest groups rather than by a president in consultation with the Senate as required by the Constitution,” Leahy said
He called Republicans' blockage of Judge Merrick Garland, former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaTrump will ramp up action on executive orders this week: reports French election: Le Pen, Macron will face off Congress must delay ObamaCare's health insurance tax immediately MORE’s Supreme Court nominee, the greatest stain on the Judiciary Committee's 200-year history.
Leahy said he has yet to decide how he’s going to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination.
“Unlike those who blocked the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, I believe it’s my constitutional responsibility to fairly evaluate a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court," he said. "I've voted for Supreme Court nominees, I’ve voted against Supreme Court nominees.”
Gorsuch's constitutional interpretation questioned
Feinstein took issue with Gorsuch’s originalist view of the Constitution.
"I find originalist judicial philosophy to be really troubling,” she said.
She pointed out that when the Constitution was written, black Americans were still held as slaves and the nation was not that far removed from burning women accused of witchcraft at the stake.
If judges and courts were evaluating constitutional rights and privileges as they were understood in 1789, Feinstein argued, there would still be segregated schools and bans on interracial marriage. She said women wouldn’t be entitled to equal protection under the law and government discrimination against LGBT Americans would be permitted.
Instead, Feinstein said she believes the Constitution is a living document that evolves with society.
Feinstein declares Roe v. Wade a ‘super-precedent’
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, declared in her opening statement that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case establishing a woman’s right to an abortion, is a “super-precedent.”
Gorsuch has never ruled directly on abortion rights, but liberal groups led by NARAL Pro-Choice America view him as hostile on the issue.
Feinstein attempted to draw a clear line early in the proceedings by arguing that abortion rights are so well established that they cannot be overturned by a future Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld Roe’s court finding, making it settled law for the last 44 years,” she said, citing 14 “key cases” where the high court upheld Roe’s core holding and 39 decisions where justices reaffirmed it.
“If these judgments when combined do not constitute 'super-precedent,' I don’t know what does,” she said.
Judiciary ranking member brings up Garland
Feinstein began her opening statements expressing her disappointment in the Republican blockade of former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
She said Garland was widely regarded as a mainstream nominee who deserved fair Senate consideration.
During Gorsuch’s hearings, she said it’s up the senators to determine how his decisions will impact all Americans — not just the wealthy and the powerful.
“We’re holding hearings not because court precedent and stare decisis are something average Americans worry about, but because the Supreme Court has the final word on hundreds of issues that impact our daily lives,” Feinstein said.
Grassley touts Gorsuch’s record combatting ‘executive overreach’
Grassley starts opening statements by warning of “executive overreach” and touting Gorsuch as a justice who will keep the executive branch in check.
“His grasp on the separation of powers — including judicial independence — enlivens his body of work,” Grassley said in his prepared remarks.
“The nominee before us understands that any judge worth his salt will ‘regularly issue judgments with which they disagree as a matter of policy — all because they think that’s what the law fairly demands,’” he added.
“Fundamentally, that is the difference between a legislator and a judge. All of us should keep this in mind during the course of this hearing."
Gorsuch has won praise from the right for questioning courts’ traditional deference to the executive branch in interpreting ambiguous statutes, the so-called Chevron Deference.
Gorsuch warned in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch that the doctrine permits “executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power.
Gorsuch introduces his family
Gorsuch introduced several family members sitting in the audience, including his wife Louise, his brother-in-law, his brother-in-law's parents, his nephew, his cousin and her daughter.
Gorsuch’s longtime assistant is also present, along with several law clerks.
Gorsuch barraged by photographers
Gorsuch appeared taken aback by the crowd of photographers rapid-fire snapping shots of him as he sat at the witness table ahead of the hearing.
He turned around to face his family and handlers seated behind him and held up his hands in a shrug, expressing surprise over the intense attention.
Even Sen. Christopher CoonsChris CoonsHow Gorsuch's confirmation shapes the next Supreme Court battle Coons: ‘Exactly the wrong time’ for State Dept cuts Dem pushed plan for both sides to admit to abusing Senate rules: report MORE (D-Del.) got caught up in the hoopla — snapping pictures on a smartphone from the senators’ dais.
“This is a big day for you and your family,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) as he gaveled in the start of the proceedings.
Every senator will get 10 minutes to give opening statements before Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R), who are scheduled to introduce Gorsuch, speak.
Gorsuch will then be sworn in to testify under oath.
Gorsuch has arrived in the hearing room and is greeting the committee members, shaking hands with each one.
Swing-state Democrat to introduce Gorsuch
Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), a swing-state Democrat who is considered likely to vote for Gorsuch, will introduce the nominee at the start of Monday’s proceedings.
Bennet says he won’t make a decision until the hearings are complete, but he was spotted last month strolling with Gorsuch along the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver.
More than 200 Colorado-based lawyers have written to Bennet urging him to support Gorsuch, a Colorado native who has served since 2006 on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and other Western states.
Colorado’s Republican senator, Cory Gardner, will also offer introductory remarks.
Protesters take their positions
Lizet Ocampo, manager of political campaigns for People for the American Way, is one of the protesters in red sitting in the back row for Gorsuch’s hearing.
She said she's here with a coalition of civil, human and labor rights groups peacefully protesting his nomination. She argues his record shows he sides with corporate interests over American workers.
"He's a rubber stamp for the Trump administration," she said. "He's not the independent voice we need."
Heavy security in place for Gorsuch
Senate officials have stepped up security in the Senate Hart Office Building for the first day of Gorsuch's Supreme Court confirmation hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
There are 13 uniformed officers lined up along the back wall of the hearing room ready to pounce on potential protesters who may disrupt the hearing. Many in the audience are wearing bright red T-shirts emblazoned with the hashtag #StopGorsuch.
The crowd is relatively small, however, compared to past high-profile Senate hearings. Liberal groups have expressed their frustration with Senate Democrats for letting Gorsuch slip off the public's radar in recent weeks.