Judge Neil Gorsuch emphasized "the importance of an independent judiciary" on Monday in opening remarks to a Senate Judiciary Committee bitterly divided over his nomination to the Supreme Court. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. "The nominee before us today is not Leader McConnell", the Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell, who engineered a 10-month blockade of Obama's court pick, Judge Merrick Garland, last year. He would replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.
As NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg noted, "Supreme Court scholars and practitioners on the right and left may disagree about whether they want to see Gorsuch confirmed, but in general there is little doubt about the nominee's conservatism".
His nomination also fulfilled a key campaign promise for Trump, who helped woo wary Republicans with his pledge to nominate a conservative justice. Republicans refused even to grant a hearing to former President Barack Obama's choice, but now the Senate will exercise its "advice and consent" role, a politically fraught decision with liberals pressuring Democrats to reject Gorsuch. Doing that without too much drama would be Trump's biggest win so far as president.
Blumenthal said it was not "idle speculation" to suggest the Supreme Court might be asked to enforce a subpoena against Trump, citing FBI Director James Comey's testimony before Congress on Monday confirming an ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian Federation.
"Will you elevate the rights of corporations over those of real people?" asked Sen.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said he was anxious that Gorsuch's conservative method of interpreting the Constitution " goes beyond being a philosophy and becomes an agenda" that is anti-abortion, anti-environment and pro-business.
Democrats voiced skepticism about his conservative record and pro-business rulings, and repeatedly brought up Republicans' refusal a year ago to even consider President Barack Obama's nominee for the same seat now being filled by President Donald Trump.
Some liberals are making a late effort to bolster their paid media: the Constitutional Responsibility Project said Wednesday it would target two Republicans up in 2018, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, with spots rattling through the less glamorous parts of Gorsuch's judicial record and encouraging voters to call Flake's and Heller's offices.
Gorsuch, 49, pledged to senators that he would be a restrained, fair and nonpartisan justice of the nation's highest court. "I have decided cases for Native Americans seeking to protect tribal lands, for class actions like one that ensured compensation for victims of nuclear waste pollution by corporations in Colorado", he said.
"I've ruled for disabled students, for prisoners, for the accused, for workers alleging civil rights violations and for undocumented immigrants".
Since Scalia's death, the court has split 4 to 4 on a handful of cases. He could hold a vote to change the rules and lower the vote threshold.
Once the Senate gets past procedural votes, it can hold a simple majority vote to confirm.