Washington – On Day 3 of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Neil Gorsuch, Sen. Richard Blumenthal tried to do what other Democrats have tried, and failed, to do – pin down the nominee’s opinion on a hot-button issue.
Blumenthal asked Gorsuch, a judge on the Colorado-based 10tth Circuit Court of Appeals, to give his personal views on about a half dozen landmark Supreme Court decisions, one by one. But the answer was nearly always the same – some version of “nope.”
Of Brown v Board of Education, the key school desegregation case, Gorsuch said, “It’s a seminal decision, one of the greatest of the Supreme Court.”
“It’s one of the shining moments of our constitutional history,” Gorsuch said. “We’re all on the same page on Brown v. Board of Education, senator. It’s a great and important decision.”
That was the most Blumenthal was able to extract from Gorsuch on his views of key Supreme Court cases.
On Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 decision that overturned the state’s ban on contraceptives for married couples and bolstered Americans’ right to privacy, Gorsuch said, “It has been repeatedly reaffirmed.”
Pressed by Blumenthal to give an opinion on the case, Gorsuch demurred.
“My personal views have nothing to do with my job as a judge,” he said.
On Eisenstadt v Baird, which established the right of unmarried people to possess contraceptives, Gorsuch said, “To say I agree or disagree with the United States Supreme Court as a judge is an act of hubris.”
“Precedent is more important than what I think, and my agreement or disagreement doesn’t add weight towards it,” Gorsuch said.
Gorsuch called Loving v Virginia, which ruled that banning interracial marriage is unconstitutional, “a seminal, important vindication of the original meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.”
But he said little else.
“I’m drawing the same line that Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsberg, (David) Souter and (Antonin) Scalia… Many, many people who have sat at this confirmation table and declined to offer their personal views on this or that precedent,” he said.
Of Lawrence v. Texas, which held the government can’t criminalize gay and lesbian relationships, Gorsuch said, “I’m going to give you the same answer every time.”
Blumenthal also failed to secure Gorsuch’s personal opinion on a couple of key abortion rights cases, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
A frustrated Blumenthal told Gorsuch, “Your declining to be more direct leaves doubt in the minds of millions of Americans.”
But Gorsuch said it was important to hide his views.
“If I start suggesting that I prefer or not or like this or that precedent, I’m sending a signal, a ‘promise of preview,’ as Justice Ginsberg called it, about how I would rule in the future,” he said.
He said Blumenthal, and other senators, are grilling him on issues that are “very live with controversy, which is why you are asking about them.”
Blumenthal said it was the public’s right to know about the judge’s position on controversial issues.
“Asking you to agree these results were correct is a relevant question, and your declining to do so, I respect your reasons, but I think that it speaks volumes,” Blumenthal said.
Republicans defended Gorsuch against Democratic attacks and by the end of the third day of the hearings, seemed confident Senate would confirm the nominee.
“I’ve seen an awful lot of great people in the law come before this committee. And I haven’t seen anybody any better than you,” said Sen Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Democrats were frustrated they could not trip up the nominee during the marathon hearing. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted that Gorsuch’s testimony was “pitifully short on substance.”
Gorsuch has one more day of questioning. The Senate Judiciary Committee hopes to wrap up the confirmation hearing Thursday.