Connecticut’s two Democratic U.S. senators distanced themselves Friday from those who would block the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court with the same tactics employed by Republicans against President Obama.
But Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, while differing on tactics with those who would oppose any high-court nominee offered by the president, also questioned whether Neil Gorsuch was too extreme to succeed the late Antonin Scalia.
Both said they suspect Gorsuch’s brand of conservatism might stray outside the legal mainstream.
“I will oppose this nominee if I conclude he is out of the mainstream of legal thinking,” said Blumenthal, a Judiciary Committee member and a former Connecticut attorney general. “I have grave and serious concerns about whether he in fact is in the mainstream.”
Gorsuch, a judge of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals based in Denver, has been hailed for his intellect and the clarity of his written opinions, but the senators questioned if he was too willing to intrude on executive and legislative prerogative.
“I don’t want a judge who substitutes their political views for decisions made by Congress,” Murphy said.
Like Scalia, Gorsuch is considered an “originalist,” a jurist focused on the intentions of the Constitution’s framers and indifferent to the real-world impact of a court’s ruling. But unlike Scalia, Gorsuch has expressed a willingness to set aside the “Chevron deference,” a legal doctrine that calls for the court to defer to a federal agency’s interpretations of its own regulations.
Gorsuch has written it may be time to “face the behemoth,” as he referred to Chevron.
At a press conference in Hartford, Blumenthal and Murphy distanced themselves from an across-the-board resistance to any Trump nomination to the court, saying they would not employ tactics Republicans used to keep Scalia’s seat empty for nearly a year until Obama left office.
“I know there are lots of people who want us to use the same tactics that Republicans did. I simply think that would be a mistake,” Murphy said. “I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to fight the most hateful and divisive policies of people in this administration and occasionally try to find common ground or give deference to the president’s choices for his administration.”
With their position, the senators appeared to be trying to keep the public’s focus on Trump and Gorsuch, not on GOP complaints that that some Democrats were more interested in payback for how Republicans treated Obama and his choice for the vacancy, Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Murphy said the choice of a successor to Scalia was a missed opportunity for Trump, who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, to make a unifying gesture – name a conservative, but not someone to the right of Scalia.
“This is a moment when the country is bitterly divided,” Murphy said. “It is not the time to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court who would be the most conservative and the most right wing of all nine justices.”