The Senate Judiciary Committee reconvened Thursday to hear from outside witnesses about Judge Neil Gorsuch’s character and his suitability to sit on the nation’s highest court — as top Democrats started to come out against his confirmation.
Gorsuch, who faced two days of intense questioning from Democrats, is on Capitol Hill but will not be present at the hearing after finishing his testimony Wednesday. Instead, senators will hear from lawyers, advocacy groups, critics and former colleagues on his qualifications.
Democrats have shown continued opposition to Gorsuch, and started to come out formally against his nomination Thursday.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced he would lead a filibuster against Gorsuch’s confirmation, calling the nominee a judge who “almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said Gorsuch was “not the right choice.”
“I do not believe Judge Gorsuch’s judicial approach will ensure fairness for workers and families in Pennsylvania,” he said in a statement.
Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have also declared their opposition.
Gorsuch frustrated Democrats during his Wednesday hearing by following the precedent set by previous justices in refusing repeated attempts to push him to talk about key legal and political issues.
When Democrats sought to tease out his views on everything from campaign finance laws to gay marriage and abortion, Gorsuch refused to discuss how he would rule.
“I have declined to offer any promises, hints or previews of how I’d resolve any case,” he said.
However, he told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.– who expressed concern that he would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade — that “no one is looking to return us to horse and buggy days.”
The biggest hiccup for Gorsuch came from outside the hearing. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday in a case involving learning-disabled students, overturning a standard for special education that Gorsuch had endorsed in an earlier case on the same topic.
Democrats used the ruling to question why his thinking was turned unanimously by the high court.
Gorsuch said he was bound by an earlier decision from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and objected to what he saw as insinuations that he didn’t care about disabled students.
“If anyone is suggesting that I like the result where an autistic child happens to lose, it’s a heartbreaking accusation,” he said angrily.
Republicans, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of the Colorado native. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he hadn’t seen a better nominee in 40 years in the Senate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., lamented what he called the deterioration of the Senate confirmation process since Antonin Scalia, whose seat Gorsuch would fill, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were confirmed with more than 90 votes each.
“What’s happened? Did the Constitution change? I don’t think so, I think politics has changed. I think it’s changed in a fashion that we should all be ashamed of as senators, and I think we’re doing great damage to the judiciary by politicizing every judicial nomination,” Graham said.
A committee vote is expected April 3, with a Senate floor vote later that same week. Republicans control the Senate 52-48, so it would require eight Democrats to move Gorsuch past procedural hurdles that require 60 votes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.