BY JONATHAN EASLEY
01/31/17 The Hill
Democrats in the Senate quickly rallied in opposition to President Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch to succeed Anton Scalia on the Supreme Court.
The early opposition lays the groundwork for a bitter battle between Republicans, who are enthused by Trump’s pick, and Democrats, who are still angered by the GOP’s blockade of former President Obama’s pick.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) railed against Gorsuch’s record and said she would oppose his nomination.
“President Trump had the chance to select a consensus nominee to the Supreme Court. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, he failed that test,” she said in a statement. “Instead, he carried out his public promise to select a nominee from a list drawn up by far right activist groups that were financed by big business interests.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, a progressive from Ohio, described Gorsuch’s positions on corporate personhood, LGBT protections, and women’s healthcare as too extreme.
“I cannot support any nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people,” Brown said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has enormous influence over the lives of everyday Ohioans, and any nominee must be willing to defend their rights to make their own healthcare decisions, collectively bargain for safe workplaces and fair pay, and to be protected from discrimination and Wall Street greed.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also signaled his opposition to the pick.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who a day earlier predicted that Democrats would launch a filibuster against whoever Trump picked for the court, fumed that Obama’s pick to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland, was never given a hearing or a vote by Senate Republicans.
Republicans argued that it would have been unprecedented for an outgoing president to fill a Supreme Court vacancy at the height of a presidential election.
Merkley encouraged Democrats to retaliate by resisting Trump’s pick.
“The most fundamental thing that must be understood about tonight’s announcement is that this is a stolen seat,” Merkley said.
“This is the first time in American history that one party has blockaded a nominee for almost a year in order to deliver a seat to a President of their own party. If this tactic is rewarded rather than resisted, it will set a dangerous new precedent in American governance.”
Any senator can require a 60-vote threshold for Gorsuch, but filibusters for a Supreme Court nominee are exceedingly rare and have happened only four times before in history.
Democrats failed in their last attempt to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee after former President George W. Bush nominated Justice Samuel Alito.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate. The GOP would need eight Democrats to vote with them to break the 60-vote threshold if there is a filibuster.
Seven Democrats in the Senate – Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) – have said they oppose a filibuster.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the burden is on Gorsuch “to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the Executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans.”
“Make no mistake, Senate Democrats will not simply allow but require an exhaustive, robust, and comprehensive debate on Judge Gorsuch’s fitness to be a Supreme Court Justice,” Schumer said.
Some Democrats expressed openness to reviewing Gorsuch’s record.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) lauded Gorsuch for having “an impressive résumé and academic background” but called for a thorough vetting “to ensure his views and judicial philosophy are not out of the mainstream.”
“I look forward to carefully reviewing Judge Gorsuch’s qualifications before deciding whether I believe he is fit to serve on our nation’s highest court,” Warner said in a statement.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D), a centrist from West Virginia, who is up for a tough reelection race in a state that Trump won overwhelmingly, called on his colleagues to put politics aside in their review.
“The Senate should hold committee hearings; Senators should meet with him, we should debate his qualifications on the Senate floor and cast whatever vote we believe he deserves,” Manchin said. “I look forward to meeting with Judge Gorsuch, examining his record, and making a determination of whether to provide my consent. Just as I have all along, I urge my colleagues to put partisan politics aside and allow the vetting process to proceed.”