The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee suggested Monday that members of her party have little reason to support the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, the judge whom President Donald Trump has selected to sit on the Supreme Court.
During a committee session Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that the Senate’s yearlong refusal to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland ― as well as the millions in secret money being spent to support Gorsuch, and the nominee’s evasiveness during his confirmation hearing last week ― put Democrats in a difficult position moving forward.
“These three things more or less are sort of setting the table for, at least, how this senator feels about this,” she said. “This puts this side, in my view, in just a terrible position.”
Following the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Democrats in the Senate have begun to coalesce around the push to block a floor vote on Gorsuch at all costs, and progressive activists are pressuring senators not to go soft on the nominee.
In light of the judge’s performance last week, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the No. 2 Democrat on the judiciary committee, said Monday that he plans to demand more thorough answers from Gorsuch in writing. Leahy threatened to join the Democratic blockade if Gorsuch doesn’t cooperate.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), meanwhile, postponed the vote on Gorsuch and two other pending nominees for top Department of Justice roles until next Monday. He said he’ll have “a lot more to say” once the committee debates the Gorsuch nomination again next week.
During Monday’s meeting, Feinstein noted that Republicans’ mistreatment of Garland had provoked a “depth of feeling” among Senate Democrats, and that the millions spent in secret money to bring down his nomination — and the millions more being poured into Gorsuch’s — send “a loud signal” about the whole confirmation process.
“When you have this kind of dark money, you have reportedly 10 states targeted and millions spent, it creates a situation, I think, for a nominee that the people who spend this money by the tens of millions ought to think twice about,” she said. “It may very well be counterproductive.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during a Monday briefing with reporters that Democrats’ intention to filibuster Gorsuch “is nothing short of obstructionism.” Republicans denied Garland a hearing for 293 days before his nomination expired with the old Congress.
Gorsuch emerged largely unscathed from more than 20 hours of questions from senators of both parties last week. But some of them, like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), hit the nominee with pointed questions about how special interest groups are spending large sums in key states to help the judge sail through confirmation. When Whitehouse asked Gorsuch if he knew who was behind these efforts, the judge demurred.
“Senator, I could speculate based on what I’ve read and what I’ve heard, but I don’t know individuals who are contributing,” he said. “I don’t know that.”
Schumer needs 41 votes in order to mount a successful filibuster of Gorsuch, or otherwise convince three Republican senators that it’s not worth changing Senate rules to get him confirmed. On this latter score, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may hold greater sway and convince his caucus to change the rules anyway.