Senate Panel Opens Confirmation Hearings For Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Senate panel has opened confirmation hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

The panel’s chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley, opened the first day of hearings on Monday.

Colorado’s two senators — Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner — introduced Gorsuch, a highly credentialed and conservative member of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Grassley said Gorsuch “stated a very independent view” in his opening statement Monday and that the hearings are off to a good start.

In his opening statement, Gorsuch said it is for Congress to make laws, for the executive to enforce them, “and for neutral and independent judges” to apply them.  He said that in his decade as a federal appeals court judge he tried to treat all fairly and with respect. He said he has decided cases for disabled students, prisoners and workers alleging civil rights violations.

Gorsuch said: “Sometimes, I have ruled against such persons too.”

He said his decisions never reflected a judgment about the people before me, “only my best judgment about the law and facts at issue in each particular case.”

Questioning will begin on Tuesday.

Grassley said his panel likely will cast a vote on Gorsuch’s nomination in two weeks, on April 3.

Grassley said the committee will first schedule a vote for next Monday, March 27. But he expects the vote to be held over a week, as committee rules allow any member to push it back.

Republicans have said they would like Gorsuch to be confirmed before Congress leaves for a two-week recess on April 7.

For Supreme Court nominations, the Judiciary panel has traditionally voted to recommend a nominee favorably or unfavorably, giving the full Senate the final say.

Grassley said that he believes Democrats will have a hard time voting against Gorsuch after the hearings, but “I assume he’ll have a lot of votes against him.”

Gorsuch’s nomination has been cheered by Republicans and praised by some left-leaning legal scholars. Democrats headed into the committee hearings divided over how hard to fight him.

The 49-year-old has served on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver since 2006, after being appointed by President George W. Bush. He once worked at the Supreme Court as a law clerk.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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