On the first day of confirmation hearings for Federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to be named as a Supreme Court Justice, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) criticized what he referred to as the “Roberts court” and said Gorsuch taking a seat on the bench would further “infect” it.
“What this moment in our history and our nation’s history calls for is a nominee whose experience demonstrates an ability to set aside rigid views in favor of identifying common ground and crafting strong consensus opinions,” Franken said, adding that President Barack Obama’s nominee of liberal Judge Merrick Garland fit that description.
“But your record suggests that, if confirmed, you will espouse an ideology that I believe has already infected the bench — an ideology that backs big business over individual Americans and refuses to see our country as the dynamic and diverse nation that my constituents wake up in every morning.”
Franken, who referred several time to the Supreme Court as the “Roberts court,” acknowledged Gorsuch’s experience and said he has “strong opinions,” but questioned his interpretation of the Constitution. Franken said:
You’re a man of considerable qualifications and experience and having reviewed your decisions I can say that you’re a man of strong opinions. But the task before this committee is not to determine whether you are a man of convictions, rather it’s incumbent upon us to determine whether the views you espouse and whether your interpretation of the Constitution take proper measure of the challenges the American people face every day.
Franken then interpreted the nation’s “founding document” as ensuring “justice and equality” for people based on their immigration status and sexual orientation or gender identity.
“[The committee] must determine whether your understanding of the founding document is one that will make real its promise of justice and equality to all Americans, black and white, immigrants, Native Americans, gay, straight, and transgender.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Donald Trump named Gorsuch as one of 21 people he was considering to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia if he were elected.
Trump drew strong praise from those who supported him for president when he selected Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, including Faith and Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed, who said:
President Trump won 81 percent of the evangelical vote in no small measure because he made an ironclad pledge that if elected he would fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court with a strict constructionist who would respect the Constitution and the rule of law, not legislate from the bench.
Michael A. Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America, said, “Judge Neil Gorsuch is a nominee ‘very much in the mold’ of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. President Trump deserves credit for fulfilling his campaign pledge by nominating an individual who will, based on his record, interpret the text of the Constitution rather than create unwritten rights supposedly hidden between the lines.”