U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal pledged Friday to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court through all available means, saying the Harvard-educated, conservative jurist failed during his confirmation hearings to demonstrate he is not bound by an anti-abortion litmus test imposed by President Trump.
Blumenhal said in a press conference in Hartford that Gorsuch, who had previously written of the importance of showing deference to precedent, fell outside the judicial mainstream for pointedly refusing to say if Griswold v. Connecticut and other cases establishing privacy rights central to the legalization of abortion were rightly decided.
“Instead of being forthcoming, he evaded my questions at every turn,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will vote Monday on Gorsuch. “And as recently as yesterday, when we received his written responses to my additional questions, he was equally evasive. So, we’re left with the conclusion he passed the Trump litmus test.”
Blumenthal said Gorsuch had a “special obligation” to demonstrate his independence, given his nomination by a president who has repeatedly attacked the judiciary and pledged to nominate only judges who can be relied upon to overturn the court’s 7-2 ruling in 1973 that unequivocally established a woman’s right to an abortion, Roe v. Wade.
Trump “has outsourced selection of his Supreme Court nominee to right-wing special-interest groups after establishing a litmus test that he would nominate someone only if that person is committed to automatically overturn Roe v. Wade, strike down measures to control gun violence and be of a distinctly conservative bent,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said that Gorsuch was willing to commit that the high court correctly ended legal segregation in public schools in 1954 with its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which made his evasion noteworthy on precedents striking down bars on interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.
The 1965 contraception decision stemmed from a challenge to a Connecticut law.
“I asked him about his commitment to Griswold and the line of cases that flowed from it, including guarantees not only to contraception rights and women’s health-care reproductive rights in Roe v. Wade,” he said.
The Democratic senator’s position was not a surprise as battle lines hardened over Trump’s first nomination to the court, with Democrats still seething over Republicans’ willingness to keep the court short-handed for a year rather than consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday he saw little chance of reaching a deal with Republicans over avoiding a filibuster. Blumenthal said the Democrats’ end-game was forcing Trump to withdraw the nomination of Gorsuch and make a new choice after consultation with a broad range of senators.
“I will do everything in my power to block his nomination,” said Blumenthal, a former U.S. attorney and Connecticut attorney general. He was a law clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, not long after the case was decided.
Under current Senate rules, a cloture vote ending a filibuster requires 60 votes. Republicans hold 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats, meaning they need eight Democrats for cloture. Confirmation requires a simple majority of 51.
In November of 2013, Democrats maneuvered to sidestep the 60-vote requirement — employing the so-called “nuclear option” — when Barack Obama was president and a GOP minority held up lower court and executive nominations. The rules change did not apply to Supreme Court nominees.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are the only Democrats to say they will vote for Gorsuch and oppose a filibuster, while other moderate Democrats, including Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, have yet to stake a position.
“Instead of changing the process, they should change the nominee,” Blumenthal said of the Republicans. “I still hope that they may, if they fail to get 60 votes. But if they invoke the nuclear option, that will change the Senate in fundamental ways.”
The president devoted his weekly radio address Friday to Gorsuch, saying his confirmation hearings showed the nation a man worthy of a seat on the Supreme Court.
“Judge Gorsuch is going to serve our people by devoting himself to our beloved Constitution,” Trump said. “The Senate saw this firsthand in hours of Judge Gorsuch’s impressive testimony. In every step of the process, what has been clear to all is that Judge Gorsuch is a man who respects the law. He defends the Constitution. And in doing so, he will protect our freedoms.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., announced he would vote against Grouch if the nomination reached the floor.
“I am deeply concerned about the politicization of the court, and its recent capture by corporate and special interests,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am convinced Judge Gorsuch would exacerbate that slide, and continue the activist bent of the existing court. For that reason, I cannot support him.”
Washington correspondent Ana Radelat contributed to this report.