Texas Senators Praise Trump Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch at Confirmation Hearing

WASHINGTON - On a normal day, in a normal year, the confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court justice would be the biggest attraction of the day for political observers.But given the fireworks at Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, the introduction of Judge Neil Gorsuch was a muted affair.The first day of confirmation proceedings for Gorsuch, who sits on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, unfolded as expected, as Republicans lavished praise on President Donald Trump’s nominee and Democrats expressed concern.The hearings did not get into the particulars of Gorsuch’s conservative record as a judge, as Monday’s four-hour hearing was dedicated just to opening statements from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.The most full-throated support for Gorsuch came from Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who’s been one of the judge’s loudest cheerleaders since Trump first announced the nomination in January.“[Gorsuch’s] jurisprudence reflects brilliance and the humility of a man committed to the Constitution and the law,” Cornyn told the audience in the hearing room. “That body of work is the best guide for the kind of judge Judge Gorsuch will be.”Cornyn took special note of Gorsuch’s experience, which includes a decade of work at the D.C. law firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel.“He spent a decade, as he put it, ‘working in the trenches’ of the law. As a recovering lawyer and judge myself, I think that’s critically important,” Cornyn said. “Judge, it means that you understand better than most the impact of your decisions, actually having represented real-life clients.”Notably, the confirmation hearing provided Cornyn and other Republicans an opportunity to give unqualified praise to Trump. Some of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, most notably Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have been less eager to embrace the president in other areas.While Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, is careful to not criticize the president, he has written editorials disagreeing with Trump on matters of trade -- and he’s been measured in his response to several of Trump’s central issues, including the travel ban that has been blocked by federal courts and the proposed border wall.With regard to Gorsuch’s nomination, Cornyn had no complaints.“President Trump chose one of the most accomplished lawyers and jurists of his generation,” Cornyn said.Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who also sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was even more effusive in his praise for Trump, calling Gorsuch’s nomination the result of the most “radically transparent” nomination process in history.Before the election, Trump released a list of the 21 judges he pledged to consider for the open seat on the Supreme Court. That list included Gorsuch.“Because of this unique and transparent process, unprecedented in this nation’s history, his nomination carries with it a super-legitimacy,” Cruz said on Monday.Cruz also criticized Senate Democrats for making “baseless attacks” on Gorsuch’s record, and urged them to give Gorsuch a fair hearing.That request struck a sour note with the committee’s Democrats, all of whom brought up Merrick Garland at various points over the course of their remarks.Garland, the chief judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama - but was never given a hearing in the Senate. His failed nomination was a major point of contention from the beginning on Monday.“[Sen. Mitch McConnell] was willing to ignore the tradition and precedent of the Senate so you could sit at this witness table today,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told a solemn Gorsuch.Even Gorsuch’s allies noted the strange circumstances under which the confirmation hearings were taking place. Neal Kaytal, the former acting solicitor general under Obama, introduced Gorsuch on Monday and has been one of his highest-profile supporters on the left.Nevertheless, it was “a tragedy of national proportion” that Garland was not the one granted a hearing, Kaytal said.Over the course of Monday, the Democrats also provided hints about the lines of attack they plan to take when the questioning phase of the confirmation process begins tomorrow.Many of them brought up a 2016 case involving a trucker who was stuck in freezing temperatures one night in Illinois. The trucker, Alphonse Maddin, was instructed by his boss to stay in the truck with the trailer attached, despite the fact that the brake lines had frozen and the temperatures were plummeting.When Maddin’s legs became numb and his speech started slurring, he temporarily left the trailer behind to seek warmer temperatures. Less than a week later, his company, TransAm Trucking Inc., fired him.In a dissent at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch argued that the firing did not violate a law that protects truckers who refuse to drive in unsafe conditions."According to his recollection, it was 14 degrees below — so cold,” Durbin told Gorsuch. “But not as cold as your dissent.”Despite that criticism, Gorsuch stayed calm — which earned him additional praise from North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis.“I’m completely convinced you have an at-rest heart rate of about four,” Tillis said.The confirmation hearings will resume Tuesday morning.  Continue reading...

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