At Hearing, Gorsuch Positions Himself Above Politics

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Judge Neil Gorsuch presented himself yesterday as a creature of consensus during a sharply partisan Supreme Court confirmation hearing, clouded throughout by the bitter nomination fight that preceded it over the past year, the New York Times reports. Democrats, seething from the hearing’s opening moments, made clear that they would not let the public forget about Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee, whom Republicans refused to even consider at a hearing, saying the seat should be filled by the winner of the presidential election. Gorsuch reached for comity during a well-practiced 16-minute speech, insisting that he favored no party above the law and appearing to brace for attacks from critics who have said his rulings tilt toward corporate interests. “I’ve ruled for disabled students, for prisoners, for the accused, for workers alleging civil rights violations and for undocumented immigrants,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Sometimes, too, I’ve ruled against such persons.”

Beginning four days of planned hearings, Democrats raised questions about Gorsuch’s record on issues like workers’ rights and aired concerns about President Trump’s often dim view of the judicial branch. Republicans sought to insulate a plainly well-credentialed jurist whom they hope to install as the court’s next conservative stalwart. Gorsuch took pains to position himself above politics, on the eve of formal, rigorous questioning from senators today. Gorsuch cast himself as a humble Westerner with malice toward none in his decade as a federal appellate court judge based in Denver. “My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me, only a judgment about the law and the 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.” A judge who is pleased with every ruling he reaches, he added, “is probably a pretty bad judge, stretching for policy results he prefers rather than those the law compels.”

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