The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee chided Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for avoiding “specificity” at his confirmation hearing, as the exhaustive questioning from lawmakers resumed Wednesday.
“What worries me is you have been very much able to avoid any specificity, like no one I have ever seen before,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told the nominee. “And maybe that’s a virtue, I don’t know.”
Feinstein returned to pressing Gorsuch for his views on key issues after she and her colleagues struggled a day earlier to discern his stance on topics ranging from gay rights to abortion.
Gorsuch gave the same explanation, though, at Wednesday’s hearing: “I can’t promise how I will rule in a particular case.”
“I don’t expect you to,” Feinstein responded.
Feinstein was expressing concerns about his interpretation of the Constitution and law when it comes to issues like women’s rights. “Young women take everything for granted today, and all of that could be struck out with one decision,” she said.
Gorsuch said the job of a judge is to apply the law and Constitution, which was meant to last “ages,” to “current realities.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., shortly afterward jumped to the nominee’s defense, warning that lawmakers are doing “great damage to the judiciary” by “politicizing” every nomination and looking for nominees to agree with their worldview.
“We’re taking the nomination process to a place it was never intended to go by the framers of the Constitution,” Graham said. “Alexander Hamilton would be rolling in his grave.”
Gorsuch’s second day of questioning by lawmakers – and third hearing session overall – followed an opening round that lasted nearly 12 hours. Mostly cordial, the Tuesday session became tense at times as Senate Democrats pressed him on a handful of controversial past court cases in which he was involved including one dealing with workers’ rights, as well as on concerns about his independence from President Trump.
Gorsuch insisted throughout that he would be his “own man,” and sought to parry concerns about some of his past decisions by insisting he was only following the law as written. While lawmakers repeatedly tried to gauge his view on other seminal court cases like Roe v. Wade and matters that could come before the high court soon like the president’s travel ban, Gorsuch followed a long tradition of Supreme Court nominees declining to voice their opinion on such controversies.
While Gorsuch generally was seen to be handling the barrage of questions with skill and a measured temperament, it remains unclear whether he can win over many Democrats. Some on the sidelines of the hearing have even suggested his confirmation vote be delayed due to an FBI probe of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Republicans, though, have ridiculed the calls – and have the votes to push the nomination through if necessary, even if it means changing Senate rules.
If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.