WASHINGTON ― Senate Democrats tried to put a human face on their opposition to Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch Wednesday in hopes of showing why they may feel justified in filibustering a jurist the American Bar Association deemed “well-qualified.”
Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge from Colorado, is ideologically out of the mainstream, Senate Democrats argued, saying that while he may be a smart and accomplished judge, he’s shown himself to be an activist who protects corporations at the expense of regular people.
“As a judge, Neil Gorsuch repeatedly sided with the powerful against the powerless,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Schumer said the emerging picture reminded him of Chief Justice John Roberts, who some Democrats voted to confirm but they now consider to have taken an excessively right-wing approach to the high court.
“I sat with him. It was the same thing,” said Schumer. “Very judicious, very calm, very careful in his interview. And of course he told everyone he’d just call balls and strikes. When he got to the court, he became one of the most activist judges we have ever seen.”
To back up his case, Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced four people who they said had suffered because of Gorsuch.
One was Alphonse Maddin, an auto industry designer who was forced to take a job as a truck driver during the recession. It didn’t last long because his brakes seized up in a brutal cold snap in Illinois. He was fired for unhitching his trailer and going to seek warmth.
Another was Patricia Caplinger, a nurse practitioner who was seriously injured during spinal surgery when doctors used a device that had been approved for other purposes, but had been marketed as an off-label option for her procedure. It’s been nearly impossible for her to work ever since because of the constant pain, she said.
Also, David and Katherine Hwang spoke on behalf of their late mother, Grace. Grace had been a professor in Kansas, but after battling leukemia, her doctors advised her not to return immediately to campus, where a flu epidemic was raging. She wanted to teach remotely for several months to allow her immune system to recover, but was fired.
In each instance, Gorsuch favored the employer, although Maddin eventually won his case.
“He didn’t think about the impact this had on our family. Our only source of income was lost,” Katherine Hwang said of her mother’s battle.
Democrats said in the face of such history, they doubted Gorsuch could convince them he is a suitable candidate for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court, and if he can’t, they would be willing to block him on the Senate floor.
“I will use every tool available, including the filibuster, to oppose him,” said Blumenthal. “We will use every tool at our disposal.”
“The bottom line is very simple,” said Schumer. “I think this is such an important position, you can’t give somebody a pass. I don’t intend to, and I think the vast majority of colleagues don’t intend to.”