Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch sailed into his third day of confirmation hearings on Wednesday following a marathon question and answer session during which Senate Democrats failed to land any major blows to President Donald Trump’s pick for the high court.
Gorsuch took questions for nearly 11 and a half hours on Tuesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which he presented himself as an independent jurist who would oppose Trump-favored rulings when he saw fit.
The performance left Republicans even more confident of Gorsuch’s confirmation, while Democrats shifted their focus to delaying a vote on the nominee due to the FBI’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Related: Follow Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing LIVE
“You can bet that if the shoe was on the other foot — and a Democratic president was under investigation by the FBI — that Republicans would be howling at the moon about filling a Supreme Court seat in such circumstances,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “It is unseemly to be moving forward so fast on confirming a Supreme Court justice with a lifetime appointment while this big great grey cloud of an FBI investigation hangs over the presidency.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., echoed that call:
The outspoken president’s most controversial actions and statements have loomed heavy over the proceedings, though Gorsuch largely demurred when asked his opinions on hot-button issues like abortion and the Trump administration’s travel restrictions from six Muslim-majority countries.
“It would be grossly improper of a judge to do that and a violation of the separation of powers and judicial independence if someone sitting at this table, in order to get confirmed, had to make promises or commitments about how they’d rule in a case that’s currently pending and likely to make its way to the Supreme Court,” Gorsuch said of the travel ban that was blocked by a federal judge.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the highest ranking Democrat on the committee, suggested Wednesday the lack of commitments from Gorsuch could be enough for her to vote against him.
“What worries me is you have been very much able to avoid any specificity like no one I have ever seen before,” Feinstein said. “And maybe that’s a virtue, I don’t know. But for us one this side, knowing where you stand on major questions of the day is really important to vote aye.”
Democrats did successfully create some daylight between the nominee and the president when it came to Trump’s reaction to judges opposition to his executive orders. For the first time publicly, Gorsuch said it is “disheartening” and “demoralizing” for anyone — including the president — to criticize the integrity of the judiciary.
“Anyone including the president of the United States?” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked.
“Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch said.
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