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Confirmation hearings, Day 1: Can Gorsuch overcome Democratic resentment?

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Supreme Court Nominations


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Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch begin today at 11 a.m. ET. Gorsuch will seek to overcome Democratic resentment over the failed nomination of President Barack Obama’s nominee.

The hearings, which will be broadcast live at this PBS website, are expected to last three to four days.

Gorsuch, a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was nominated to fill replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, never received a confirmation hearing.

Gorsuch has received a well-qualified rating from the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. He is known for strong academic credentials, clear writing and an originalist philosophy that puts him in the mold of Scalia. In announcing the nomination, President Donald Trump cited bipartisan support for Gorsuch when he was nominated to the 10th Circuit.

Some Democrats have indicated they may oppose Gorsuch. In a press conference last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he has “a strong presumption against” confirmation, report Bloomberg Politics and Reuters. “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge, but his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right-wing, pro-corporate, special-interest legal agenda,” Schumer said.

Another issue in the hearings may be Gorsuch’s opposition to the doctrine of Chevron deference, which holds that federal courts should defer to federal agency views when Congress passes ambiguous laws. His views on the issue differ from that of Scalia, who had argued that judges are less capable than regulators in interpreting laws.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said last week that Democratic resentment over Garland’s failed nomination may also be a factor. Gorsuch “does not come into this with the benefit of the doubt in his favor,” Whitehouse said. Democrats must see that he is “a true judicial conservative and not a political conservative.”


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