Democrats question independence of Trump
Supreme Court nominee
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[February 07, 2017]
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic U.S.
senators on Monday sharpened a potential line of attack against Neil
Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court by questioning whether he
would be sufficiently independent as a justice in light of President
Donald Trump's vigorous use of unilateral presidential power including
his travel ban.
Their comments came after Trump criticized James Robart, the U.S.
district court judge who put on hold the Republican president's Jan. 27
order temporarily barring entry into the United States of people from
seven Muslim-majority nations and halting the U.S. refugee program.
Trump called Robart a "so-called judge" who made a "ridiculous"
Democrats have expressed worry that Gorsuch, nominated by Trump last
week, could act as a rubber stamp for the Republican president's
policies on a nine-seat Supreme Court poised to revert to a conservative
"It's a serious concern with a president who attacks the judiciary and
seems to not respect the rule of law and the Constitution that you have
a really independent justice," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of
New York, set to meet with Gorsuch on Tuesday, told Reuters.
Gorsuch, continuing a series of private meetings with senators ahead of
his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, met on Monday with
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the panel's top Democrat, at her
Afterward, she said Gorsuch is "clearly very smart, caring, and he's
well thought of in Colorado," where he serves as a federal appeals court
judge. But Feinstein said she will make up her mind after the hearing
about whether or not to support his confirmation.
"What we would like to see is an independent judge, and the hearing will
determine that," Feinstein told Reuters.
Gorsuch must be confirmed by the Senate to the lifetime post on the high
"It's incumbent upon Judge Gorsuch to make it clear to the American
people that he does not believe in 'so-called judges,' that he thinks
it's imperative that the judiciary has to be respected as an independent
one-third of our government," said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who
unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year.
"I would look forward to hearing him speak out on that issue," Sanders
Conservative lawyers and Republican senators who are favorable toward
Gorsuch cite his record of supporting limited federal powers and his
skepticism about courts deferring too much to executive branch
interpretations of the law when issuing regulations as signs he would be
willing to stand up to Trump.
[to top of second column]
Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch arrives for a meeting with
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.,
February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
"I have zero concerns about his independence being compromised,"
said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican who sits on the
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, another Republican, said Gorsuch
"has a trail of decisions and publications a mile long that suggest
how talented he is, that are instructive as to how he would rule on
any number of issues."
With four liberals and four conservatives now on the court,
Gorsuch's confirmation would restore the conservative majority that
had existed for decades until the death last year of Justice Antonin
Gorsuch's supporters point in particular to a recent case in which
Gorsuch criticized a landmark high court ruling known as Chevron v.
Natural Resources Defense Council. That 1984 ruling directed judges
nationwide to defer to federal agencies' interpretation of laws that
may be ambiguous.
Gorsuch in a concurring opinion called that doctrine the "elephant
in the room" that concentrates federal power "in a way that seems
more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution."
If Gorsuch is confirmed to serve on a court that would have five
conservatives and four liberals, Democrats have expressed concern
about setbacks for their positions on divisive issues such as
abortion, gun control, environmental regulation and transgender
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by David Morgan
and Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham)
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