Thursday marked both real high points and frustrating lows for Democrats considering the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Standing up for transparency, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) wrote to Gorsuch and the dark money group backing his nomination, the Judicial Crisis Network, calling on them to reveal who has spent $17 million on Gorsuch’s nomination fight. The Senators want answers before Gorsuch’s confirmation vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.
"Because the organization is not required to disclose the identities of its donors, the American people have no idea who is so aggressively advocating for your confirmation, or why," the Senators write in their letter to Gorsuch. "When asked why you thought JCN was willing to spend $17 million ensuring your confirmation over that of exceptionally qualified Judge Garland, you responded that we should ask them. We have now done so."
Gorsuch's lack of transparency and refusal to answer questions wasn't limited to just who was spending millions on getting him onto the bench. He was elusive and slippery throughout, leading veteran court watcher and reporter Linda Greenhouse to declare:
If Judge Gorsuch wasn’t the least forthcoming Supreme Court nominee ever to appear at a confirmation hearing, it’s hard to imagine one who could be less forthcoming while still breathing. More interesting and less predictable answers could have come from Siri on an iPhone. [….]
In any event, all Judge Gorsuch had to say about the right to abortion — as well as about the 51-year-old constitutional right to use birth control—was that it was supported by precedent. In answer to a question from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s chairman, about what he had to say about Roe v. Wade, the nominee answered: “I would tell you that Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, was a precedent of the United States Supreme Court.” Elaborating ever so slightly, he went on to observe that the decision had been reaffirmed and that people relied on it. “So a good judge will consider it as precedent of the United States Supreme Court, worthy of treatment as precedent like any other.” Precedents, of course, receive all kinds of “treatment” at the hands of future courts, from a warm embrace to being whittled away to outright overruling. What kind of “treatment” Judge Gorsuch thinks the court’s abortion precedents deserve was left neatly unspecified.
It's timely for Greenhouse to highlight Roe, as today Vice President Mike Pence had to make a trip to the Senate to break a tie vote on women's access to reproductive health care. On limiting women's access to reproductive health care. As Sen. Patty Murray responded on the floor and in a series of tweets, that makes stopping Gorsuch even more important. "If the buck has to stop with the Supreme Court on women's health and rights," she said "Judge Gorsuch is not the person to be anywhere near the bench.
That would be a good thing for her to sit down with Sen. Claire McCaskill and chat about. Because McCaskill is continuing to operate under the dual delusions that there's going to be worse than Gorsuch coming from Trump, and that by not filibustering him, somehow Mitch McConnell will be nice in the future and not nuke the filibuster. This is a profound misunderstanding of just how extreme Gorsuch is and just how unprincipled Mitch McConnell will be. McCaskill needs to spend some serious time thinking about what she, personally, is willing to stand for on this one.
That was one of today's lows in the Gorsuch saga. The others were the back-to-back announcements from Sens. Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp that they would vote for cloture and for confirmation (think they timed it together?). Neither vote is a surprise as they'd both been telegraphing that this was likely from the moment Gorsuch was nominated. We'll leave it to the people of West Virginia and North Dakota to tell these two whether selling out their principles was worth it.
At the same time, there were a few more "no on cloture, no on confirmation" announcements today, including Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). There are now at least 30 Democrats behind a filibuster. One of the nice things about having 48 of them is that it's not going to be as difficult to get 41 to filibuster.
Help resist popular vote loser Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Click here to call your Democratic senator(s) and tell them to filibuster Neil Gorsuch's confirmation if they're on the undecided list.