Tomorrow will be a busy day for lawmakers. In the Longworth Building in Washington D.C., the House Intelligence Committee will begin open hearings on the Russian Active Measures Investigation, investigating Russian interference with the election. For the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirmation hearings begin for candidate for Associate Justice to the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch in the Hart Office Building, and are expected to last for four days reports NPR.
— Stephen Mally (@stephenmally) March 16, 2017
The Senate Judiciary Committee is offering a live stream for Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearings. Also on the Senate Judiciary Committee website is a link to the questionnaire Neil Gorsuch filled in when applying for his role as Associate Justice for the Supreme Court.
It’s a big job, and Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal who sits on the committee says he has some tough questions for Neil Gorsuch. News 8 WTNH reports that Senator Blumenthal also says this might be the most important decision he makes in his career as a Senator, and he does not take it lightly.
Among the topics Neil Gorsuch is expected to face are abortion, gun control, and voting rights. But Senator Blumenthal also says that he’s not ruled out a filibuster, and he plans to be “aggressive” in his questioning of Gorsuch, reports WTNH.
“I’m going to be asking about his core beliefs on women’s health care, whether he’d overturn Roe v. Wade. If he’s out of the mainstream of legal thinking…I’m going to use every tool to oppose him – including a filibuster – to block his nomination.”
The hearings for Neil Gorsuch are expected to last at least four days, and Republicans are hoping the confirmation process is completed by April.
Senator Blumenthal also said that what he is looking for in the next Supreme Court pick is someone who will stand up to Trump. He says there is a lot at stake.
“This decision is probably one of the most important I’ll make in the United States Senate. It’s a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court.”
Senator Blumenthal is also going to be asking questions on gun control and where Gorsuch stands on consumer protection. However, other Senators on the committee are also going to be asking about voting rights and where Neil Gorsuch stands on that. Neil Gorsuch has been working both sides of the aisle on all issues in an attempt to gather the votes necessary to make it to the highest bench in the land.
The Nation reports that “few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights” than an ally of Neil Gorsuch known as Hans von Spakovsky. Hans von Spakovsky is also an ally of Donald Trump, and worked vigorously with Donald Trump to spread myths post-Elections 2016 that there was “widespread voter fraud.”
The Nation revealed emails that were released to the Senate Judiciary Committee presiding on Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings. Those emails showed that Gorsuch “admired” Spakovsky, and when George W. Bush appointed Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission in 2005, Gorsuch emailed, “Good for Hans!”
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
Spakovsky has gone on the record to say the Voting Rights Act was “constitutionally dubious.” But he also praised Trump’s alleged investigation into voter fraud. After Trump alleged that three to five million people voted illegally, Spakovsky put his thoughts in writing with author John Fund.
“The real problem in our election system is that we don’t really know to what extend President Trump’s claim is true because we have an election system that is based on the honor system.”
Spakovsky also touted Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court as the “perfect pick” for Donald Trump. The apparent camaraderie between Spakovsky and Gorsuch suggests that Gorsuch may lean to the far right when it comes to voting rights, which is not good news for the Voting Rights Act, partially overturned by the Supreme Court four years ago.
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) March 17, 2017
Gorsuch has gone on the record to praise previous Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat the next Supreme Court Justice will be taking. Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” as his basis for voting against the Voting Rights Act.
Some say that the fate of voting rights in America hangs in the balance of the next Supreme Court pick for this very reason. But the Supreme Court has a middle man, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is conservative, but often votes in the liberal bloc on the Supreme Court, reports US News.
US News reports that the American Constitution Society touts Kennedy as a justice that has moved from far right to center, but notes his voting rights opinions are difficult to anticipate. Kennedy has however voted on the left side of the bloc during a fair housing case last term.
Neil Gorsuch is expected to answer questions on where he stands on voting rights. In Neil Gorsuch’s questionnaire submitted for the Supreme Court candidacy, however, he does list various Federalist Society involvements during his extensive career. Those involvements include attending multiple meetings and conventions of the Federalist Society.
Neil Gorsuch has also, according to his own questionnaire, listed luncheons, and meetings with the Heritage Foundation. Hans von Spakovsky is on the Heritage Foundation, and as a member of the Heritage Foundation is also a frequent panelist for Federalist Society meetings.
— Gloria Gevirtz (Dem) (@GGevirtz) March 19, 2017
In one such meeting, Hans von Spakovsky spoke against the Voting Rights Act reports Watchdog Wire. Both the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation note that they do not take an official position for or against the Voting Rights Act or other such policies. However, the panelists and meetings are formatted with a far-right position.
These are matters expected to come up during Neil Gorsuch’s candidacy hearings that begin tomorrow. In addition to voting rights, Gorsuch will face rigorous questions on women’s health care and abortion. His history of rulings and opinions on the matter lean far-right, and he has historically sided with religious organizations on any topics related to women’s health care.
Gorsuch is also very much pro-life, as noted by his writings “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” Gorsuch believes that assisted suicide is immoral and unconstitutional. Time Magazine reports that Neil Gorsuch was selected by Donald Trump for his anti-abortion stance.
In the ruling on Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, Neil Gorsuch sided with the religious organizations that were seeking an exemption from the Affordable Care Act asking that companies cover contraception for employees.
When Neil Gorsuch was nominated, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List had this to say.
“President Trump, we believe, has kept his promise to nominate only pro-life judges.”
Many legal eagles at the National Women’s Law Center believe that Neil Gorsuch will side on the pro-life side of things if overturning Roe v. Wade ever faces the Supreme Court. Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center says,
“We take seriously Trump’s promise to nominate a justice who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He promised to nominate someone in the mold of Justice Scalia, whose record on women’s rights is dismal.”
A Pew Research poll reports that 69 percent of Americans support maintaining Roe v. Wade.
There will be many topics covered under Neil Gorsuch’s four-day candidacy hearing for the Supreme Court. Senator Richard Blumenthal says if he has to go to a filibuster, he will do it. Neil Gorsuch has been working the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Hearing for days, months even.
— PUDCAST245 (@pudcast245) February 17, 2017
Gorsuch reportedly cozied up to Senator Blumenthal shortly after some of Trump’s controversial comments on the judiciary. When Trump’s controversial travel ban was overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump took to Twitter to slam judges, calling them “so-called judges” and tweeting in all caps, “SEE YOU IN COURT.”
Donald Trump then told his Twitter followers to blame the judge and the judiciary if an immigrant should attack the nation.
Politico reports that when that happened, Neil Gorsuch met with Senator Blumenthal and denounced Trump’s statements calling the attacks on a federal judge “demoralizing and disheartening.”
It was Gorsuch’s first real break from the president and one that Senator Blumenthal has said he wants to see if Gorsuch wants his vote. Whether the sudden cozy up to Senator Blumenthal will be enough remains to be seen. Politico reports that Senator Blumenthal says it may not be enough.
“My strong hope is that he will be more vehement publicly. He certainly expressed to me that he is disheartened by the demoralizing and abhorrent comments made by President Trump about the judiciary, but I will be asking for more specific and forthcoming responses to those kinds of questions before I determine how I will vote.”
Politico reports that whether or not Gorsuch will be able to stand up to Trump more, is something that not just Senator Blumenthal wants to see. All Democrats will be looking for this during the week-long hearings. Denouncing Trump once as demoralizing, may not be enough, although Republicans are certainly banking on it to get the 60 votes required. There are currently 52 Republicans in the Senate, meaning that if fewer than eight Democrats do not vote for Gorsuch, the Democrats can block the nomination or filibuster the nomination.
Some Democrats have not made up their minds on Neil Gorsuch yet, but some definitely have. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin will both be up for re-election in 2018. They want to keep those seats and will be voting against Neil Gorsuch.
That the House Intelligence Committee is also holding a hearing about Trump at the same time is an interesting variable to the entire Neil Gorsuch candidacy for Supreme Court. He will likely face questions on the Trump Russia scandal currently plaguing the White House, and those questions could make or break his confirmation.
The House Intelligence Committee on the Russia Active Measures Investigation begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and can be viewed on this live stream link from the House Committee website. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to assess Neil Gorsuch for candidacy to the Supreme Court begins at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and can be viewed on the live stream on the Senate Committee website.
[Feature Image by Andrew Harnick/AP Images]