Trump's Supreme Court pick complete Senate hearings

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, March 23 (IANs) Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, completed his Senate confirmation hearings and managed to avoid commenting on the legality of the travel ban.

The three hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee came to a conclusion on Wednesday without Gorsuch having to take a public position on Trump's executive order, an issue of vital importance to Democrats, who want to assure themselves that the magistrate has the willpower to oppose the President who nominated him, Efe news reported.

The ability of the judge to dodge the questions of Democratic lawmakers ultimately began to "irritate" California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee.

"What worries me is you have been very much able to avoid any specificity like no one I have ever seen before," Feinstein said.

"And maybe that's a virtue, I don't know. But for us on this side, knowing where you stand on major questions of the day is really important to a vote 'aye', and so that's why we pressed and pressed."

Even at earlier hearings, Gorsuch continued to avoid making any pronouncement on the revised travel ban signed by Trump on March 6 to temporarily bar US entry to refugees and the citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, a measure that has since been blocked by two federal judges.

Gorsuch also managed to dodge taking a position on abortion, same-sex marriage and campaign financing, the dynamic of which changed in 2010 when the Supreme Court allowed the creation of so-called "superPACs" that can take in and donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates.

Gorsuch answered all these questions with the same phrase: "I have declined to offer any promises, hints or previews of how I'd resolve any case."

Thus, like many other Supreme Court nominees, Gorsuch was able to get through the confirmation hearings without taking a political position that could restrict him in future votes on the high court.

Gorsuch, who currently is a judge with the Missouri-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one of the federal courts just below the Supreme Court, was tapped by Trump on January 31 to fill the high court seat left vacant by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

To be confirmed for the lifetime appointment, Gorsuch needs 60 votes in the Senate, a barrier that could be difficult for him to surmount because the Republicans hold just 52 seats there, although that is a majority.

Thus, they need the support of at least eight Democrats and, so far, no member of the opposition party has said they will vote for Gorsuch.

Democrats are still irritated by the decision by Republican lawmakers not to hold confirmation hearings for former President Barack Obama's own high court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, using the argument that it made no sense to approve him in an election year.

Trump, meanwhile, has asked Senate Republicans to resort to the so-called "nuclear option" whereby they could invoke a rule passed by Democrats to approve bills or appointments by a simple majority of 51 votes.

The Judiciary Committee may vote on Gorsuch on April 3 and, if so, the full Senate could vote on confirming him that same week.

--IANS

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