Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer announced today he would vote against the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, and would encourage his 48-member Democratic conference to do the same—arguing the 10th Circuit Court jurist had a “deep-seated conservative ideology” and lacked “a strong independent backbone.”
Taking the floor this morning, the senior senator from New York pointed to Gorsuch’s membership in the right-wing Federalist Society and to reams of “dark secret undisclosed money” getting spent lobbying members of the Senate to ratify his appointment to the bench. He further asserted that the nominee had answered questions from members of the Judiciary Committee in his recent hearings with “banalities and platitudes.”
“To say Judge Gorsuch has no ideology whatsoever is absurd. He just won’t admit it to the American people. To say he is just neutral in his views is belied by his history,” Schumer said. he was unable to convince me he would be a mainstream justice, who could rule free from the biases of politics and ideology. His career and judicial record suggest not a neutral legal mind, but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology.”
Current Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were also members of the Federalist Society, as was the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat Gorsuch would fill.
Particularly galling to Schumer was what he described as Gorsuch’s refusal to directly answer whether he believed the president possessed the authority to bar all Muslims from entering the country. This, the lawmaker claimed, was a sign that the judge lacked the fortitude to push back on Trump—who has publicly attacked jurists who ruled against his administration in court.
“We are in uncharted territory with this president,” Schumer said. “It requires a strong independent backbone. Judge Gorsuch has shown none.”
Finally, the Brooklyn-bred Democrat pointed to cases in which Gorsuch had ruled against individuals who had sued employers for firing them, including a teacher suffering from cancer and a truck driver who abandoned his load in a winter storm after his brakes failed. Schumer argued this displayed the judge’s lack of “judicial decency” and “human judgment,” qualities he asserted were necessary for truly thoughtful and fair decisions.
“He is someone who almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak, corporations over working Americans. There could not be a worst time for someone with those instincts,” the senator said. “I saw a judge who repeatedly sided with insurance companies who wanted to deny disability benefits to employees. I saw a judge who in employment discrimination sided with employers the great majority of the time. I saw a judge who on the issue of money in politics, seems to be in the same company as Justices Thomas and Scalia, willing to restrict the most common sense contribution limits.”
Under current Senate bylaws, Schumer could deploy a filibuster to prevent a confirmation vote so long as 40 of his members support him. However, the GOP majority could potentially vote to eliminate that power, as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand recently predicted it would.
The Democratic leader warned against utilizing that so-called “nuclear option” in his address on the floor.
“He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be no, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” he said. “If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes, a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees, and George Bush’s last two nominees, the answer isn’t to change to rules. It’s to change the nominee.”