Democrats secure enough votes to block high court pick for now

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats secured the votes on Monday to block President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, but it was virtually certain to be a short-lived political victory. Republicans have vowed to change Senate rules to put Neil Gorsuch on the court and score a much-needed win for their party.

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said before a Judiciary Committee vote on Gorsuch that he would vote with his fellow Democrats to block the nomination later this week. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is likely to change Senate rules so that Gorsuch can be confirmed with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber instead of the 60 votes now required.

The starkly divided Senate panel weighed Gorsuch’s nomination, with Republicans casting the Denver-based appeals court judge as fiercely independent and Democrats complaining that his testimony “diluted with ambiguity” makes him the wrong choice.

The Republican-led Judiciary panel was expected to back Gorsuch and send his nomination to the full Senate, most likely on a near-party line vote.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, strongly defended Gorsuch as a fair and independent man. He said Democrats had worked to try and find fault with him, but “that fault will not stick.”

“He’s a mainstream judge who’s earned the universal respect of his colleagues on the bench and in the bar,” Grassley said. “He applies the law as we in Congress write it—as the judicial oath says, without respect to persons. And he refuses to compromise his independence.”

However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel, said Gorsuch’s answers during two days of questioning before the committee were “diluted with ambiguity.” She announced her opposition to the nominee.

“Judge Gorsuch’s views were difficult to discern because he refused to answer questions, even basic questions that had been answered by previous nominees,” Feinstein said.

Democrats are angry in part because McConnell and Grassley last year blocked President Barack Obama’s pick for the job after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Even before Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, McConnell said the next president should choose the nominee, and Grassley’s committee never held a hearing on Garland.

“This action by my colleagues was unacceptable and has scarred this process and this body,” Coons said before announcing his opposition.

With his announcement, 40 Democrats and one independent have announced they will vote to block the nomination on a procedural cloture vote — a parliamentary step to advance the nomination — and oppose the choice.

By Patricia Older

Leave a Reply