White House

Democrats fuming over Gorsuch backed him in 2006

Former counselor to President George W. Bush provides insight on Supreme Court hearings

 

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch easily won the support of top Democratic senators for a lifetime appointment to the bench ... in 2006. 

What a difference a decade makes. 

Several of the same senators who helped unanimously confirm Gorsuch to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2006 are now railing against his nomination by President Trump to the highest court in the land. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday he has "serious doubts" about Gorsuch. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued a scathing statement citing Gorsuch's stance on assisted suicide, and saying nobody who believes individual rights are "reserved to the people" can support his nomination. 

But if they have long harbored concerns Gorsuch is extreme, they didn't much show it in 2006. 

Schumer, Wyden and many others were in Congress at the time of the unanimous voice vote on July 20 of that year. The record does not reflect who specifically was on the floor for the 95-0 tally, but it would have included most, if not all, of the following Senate members that year: 

Four former top Obama administration officials (President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry) and 12 current Democratic senators (Sens. Schumer, Wyden, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Patty Murray, Dick Durbin, Jack Reed, Bill Nelson, Tom Carper, Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell and Bob Menendez).

WHO IS JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH?

In 2006, Leahy was – as he is now – the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the group tasked with questioning Gorsuch prior to a full chamber vote. But Leahy was not present during the session with Gorsuch at the time. Indeed, the only senator to question him directly was Republican Lindsey Graham, during testimony that lasted just 20 minutes, according to official congressional documents and The Denver Post.

Leahy did, however, submit six written questions, ranging from queries on assisted suicide to consumer class-action lawsuits and congressional powers.

Wyden, D-Ore., was the only other member of the committee to submit questions, asking Gorsuch mainly about the legality of a physician aiding a patient in dying and Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Gorsuch wrote about those topics in his 2006 book “The Future Of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.”

KURTZ: GORSUCH, POLITICS AND PAYBACK

Though Wyden ended up voting for Gorsuch after receiving the judge’s answers, Wyden cited that Oregon law Tuesday as one of the reasons he would now oppose Gorsuch being elevated to the high court.

“His opposition to legal death with dignity as successfully practiced in Oregon is couched in the sort of jurisprudence that justified the horrific oppression of one group after another in our first two centuries,” Wyden said in a statement. “No senator who believes that individual rights are reserved to the people, and not the government, can support this nomination.”

Schumer also has been a leading voice of the Gorsuch opposition.

“Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice on the Court,” Schumer said in a statement. 

The change in tone today could reflect the overall hostility right now among Democratic lawmakers to numerous Trump appointees, as well as specific concerns about Gorsuch's judicial body of work since his confirmation to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Some of the senators now voicing skepticism also may still be smarting over majority Republicans blocking then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland last year. Leahy nodded at Garland in his statement on Gorsuch, saying: “From my initial review of his record, I question whether Judge Gorsuch meets the high standard set by Merrick Garland.” 

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday noted the dozen sitting Democrats who once backed Trump's nominee. 

“He’s a widely respected jurist who deserves the nomination to be voted upon,” Spicer said.