Backlash over Garland sets up tough confirmation battle for Gorsuch

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) speaks to WOAI from Capitol Hill on Feb. 1, 2017. (SBG)

Members of Congress from both parties are predicting a long, bitter fight in the Senate over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

On Tuesday, Trump announced Judge Neil Gorsuch as his choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last February. Republicans had refused for 10 months to hold hearings for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, infuriating Democrats.

Several House Republicans acknowledged Wednesday that Senate Democrats will likely do whatever they can to stop Gorsuch’s nomination now, but they were confident the 49-year-old federal appeals court judge would eventually be confirmed.

“It’ll be a battle, and that’s okay as long as he’s treated fairly and responsibly and respectfully,” said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Oh., who described Gorsuch as a “superb” pick by Trump.

Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., said Republicans have some questions they want answered by the nominee as well, but he does not want to see the confirmation process turn into sort of “pedantic tantrum” that Democrats are throwing by boycotting hearings for Trump Cabinet nominees.

“Ultimately, I think the takeaway is that elections have consequences,” Garrett said. Mr. Trump won the election and this is his nominee. Some degree of deference is appropriate and we’ll see how this plays out.”

Republicans changed committee rules Wednesday to advance two Cabinet nominees without Democrats present. Trump encouraged them to “go nuclear” if Democrats try to block Gorsuch, indicating he would support eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Tx., called Gorsuch “a great fellow” and said nominating justices who will “stick to the Constitution” may be the most important thing President Trump does during his term.

“He’s going to be someone who will interpret the law, not make the law,” he said of the nominee.

Babin pointed to Trump’s election in November as evidence of the American people rejecting Democrats’ policies, and he said they should allow the confirmation to proceed as it usually does.

“The Democrats need to get over their hysteria,” he said.

According to Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Me., the obstruction of Garland, who like Gorsuch was a well-respected jurist who previously sailed through confirmation for the lower court, generated anger that will not quickly subside.

“The fallout from that will certainly delay, if not deny, his appointment,” she said.

Though House members have no say in the Supreme Court confirmation process, Pingree expressed concern about some of Gorsuch’s past decisions and his views on marriage equality, abortion, and immigration.

“He’ll be fully vetted and I’m sure there will be some opposition to him so we’ll see what happens,” she said.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Tx., also suggested Gorsuch’s nomination has to be viewed in the context of Republican treatment of Garland.

“I hope the Senate is in no rush,” he said. “This nomination has to be carefully considered.”

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Oh., expects Democrats will slow the process and raise complaints about Gorsuch’s record, but he added they would have done that for anyone Trump nominated.

“Short of nominating Merrick Garland, I don’t think Democrats would have taken action on any Republican nominee,” he said.

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