Schumer: No SCOTUS Appointment While There Is A Cloud Hanging Over Trump's Head

Susan Jones | March 22, 2017 | 5:46am EDT
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) holds a news conference on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Screen grab from C-SPAN)

( - As Republicans hail Judge Neil Gorsuch as an "outstanding" Supreme Court nominee, Democrats are lining up against him for partisan reasons.

"My view is very simple," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told a news conference on Tuesday. "And that is, there is a cloud now hanging over the head of the president, and while that's happening, to have a lifetime appointment made by this president seems unseemly, and there ought to be delay."

(Earlier Tuesday, in remarks on the Senate floor, Schumer said it would be "unseemly" to move forward so fast with confirming Gorsuch while the "gray cloud" of an FBI investigation hangs over the presidency. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called Schumer's comments "ridiculous.")

President Trump's Supreme Court nominee repeatedly asserted his judicial independence at Tuesday's confirmation hearing.

Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) warned Gorsuch at the outset of the hearing that he'd be asked indirectly to explain how he would rule on various issues. "They'll probably ask you about old cases, whether they were correctly decided," Grassley told Gorsuch. "They know that you can't answer, but they're going to ask you anyway."

That's exactly what Democrats did. And this allowed Schumer, at his news conference, to accuse Gorsuch of playing "dodge ball."

"Now, as you all know, Judge Gorsuch hearing is still going on, so we'll have more to say on that later," Schumer said. "But I want to say one thing based on what we've seen so far. Judge Gorsuch looks like he's playing dodge ball with the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has bent over backwards to avoid revealing anything -- anything at all, about his judicial philosophy, or the legal issues that concern the American people.

"There is no legally justifiable rationale for not answering the questions he was asked. He's hiding behind this. He simply wants to hide his views from the American people."

Schumer said he doesn't think a single Senate Democrat has endorsed Judge Gorsuch: "Everyone’s being careful and waiting for the hearings. There's a lot of -- I think he's made a very poor impression on the -- on most -- on many of our members in his refusal to answer questions. Because there is -- as I said, there is absolutely no legal basis other than hiding.

"The idea that you can't -- and by the way, Judge Gorsuch talked about a previous case, the steel case. He mentioned Judge Jackson. But he won't talk about Citizens United. Or he won't talk about some of the other earlier cases. What gives? What gives? If you can talk about one previous case, you can talk about another."

Gorsuch told the committee:

"If I were to start telling you which are my favorite precedents or which are my least favorite precedents or if I view a precedent in that fashion, I would be tipping my hand and suggesting to litigants that I've already made up my mind about their cases. That's not a fair judge. I didn't want that kind of judge when I was a lawyer and I don't want to be that kind of judge now and I made a vow to myself I wouldn't be. That's the fairness problem.

"And then the independence problem. If it looks like I'm giving hints or previews or intimations about how I might rule, I -- I think that's the beginning of the end of the independent judiciary if -- if judges have to make effectively campaign promises for confirmation. And respectfully...I haven't done that in this process and I'm not about to start."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told CNN on Tuesday that Gorsuch didn't "gain any ground" with his testimony on Tuesday. "I don't think he had a great day," Whitehouse said.

"The answers were so evasive and so many of the methods he used for avoiding answers were so sort of at least obvious to people who do this."

Whitehouse said he hasn't decided yet whether he'll vote to confirm Gorsuch. Asked if Democrats will filibuster, Whitehouse said Democrats will ask for 60 votes.

"It's the default proposition that they have to get 60 votes for this gentleman."

That means the 52 Senate Republicans need eight Democrats to vote for Gorsuch.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday, "If Judge Gorsuch can't achieve 60 votes in the Senate, could any judge appointed by a Republican president be approved with 60 or more votes in the Senate?"

McConnell noted that in the first two years of the Bill Clinton presidency, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer were confirmed without filibuster, as were Justices Sotomayor and Kagan during President Barack Obama's term.

"So we'll see how it all develops," McConnell said. He expects the Senate to confirm Gorsuch "before we leave for the April recess."

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