Partisan fight awaits Gorsuch nomination

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch probably won't take place for another six weeks, according to a spokesman from the Senate Judiciary Committee, charged with vetting the nomination. Yet the partisan battle began almost as soon as Gorsuch, who currently serves as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit in Denver, was announced Tuesday night.

"Judge Gorsuch is going to be a superb appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court," Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., told WPMI-TV, echoing many of his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

But Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree told WGME-TV that his past rulings "Raises some concerns for me about issues like marriage equality, Roe v. Wade," echoing many House and Senate Democrats.

In March 2016, former President Barack Obama announced Judge Merrick Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy left after Associate Justice Antonin Scalia had died the month prior. Garland's nomination languished, with Senate Republican leadership refusing to hold hearings and consider that nomination. Some Democrats and Republicans are pointing to Garland's treatment as a prediction of how Democrats could behave for Gorsuch's confirmation process.

"I advocated last year, when Merrick Garland was nominated, that they have hearings," Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., told WSTM-TV. "It was a mistake not to have the hearing, because it’s given the Democrats an argument to try and thwart this pick."

But some Supreme Court experts believe the hyper-partisanship when it comes to the Supreme Court nomination process is bigger than one slighted nominee.

"This confirmation process at all levels – not just the Supreme Court level – has just been ratcheting up to more confrontational," said Russell Wheeler, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, "which is a reflection of our polarized politics."

Some Senate Democrats have advocated for a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority to confirm Gorsuch.

"I believe there must be a 60-vote threshold, as there has been for all the recent Supreme Court nominees, including all of President Obama's nominees," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told CNN the day after Gorsuch was announced as Trump's nominee.

President Trump already issued this warning to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should the Senate not reach the 60-vote threshold: "If we end up with that gridlock I would say, if you can, Mitch, go nuclear."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has cautioned his fellow Senate Democrats not to rush to opposition in retaliation of Garland's treatment, "If Republicans did something and now Democrats are going to do something, two wrongs don't make a right."

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia points out this factor as the Gorsuch confirmation process continues, "Elections have consequences. Mr. Trump won the election and this is his nominee."

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