Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch says White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus doesn’t speak for him on abortion law.
Priebus said in February at a conservative conference that with President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch, “we’re talking about a change of potentially 40 years of law.” That’s a reference to the 1973 landmark abortion decision Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion.
“Mr. Priebus doesn’t speak for me and I don’t speak for him,” Gorsuch said in response to Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s question on Priebus’ comments.
Gorsuch added: “I don’t appreciate it when people characterize me ... I am a judge, I am my own man.”
When Franken asked if he was comfortable with Priebus describing his nomination that way, Gorsuch said “there is a lot about this process I am uncomfortable with.”
Franken also grilled Gorsuch about the case of the freezing truck driver who had been fired after he had driven away from his broken trailer after waiting several hours for help. The temperature was 14 below zero.
While the 10th Circuit Court panel upheld an administrative judge’s ruling in favor of the fired driver, Gorsuch dissented. He said the law would have protected a driver who refused to operate an unsafe vehicle, but it did not protect a trucker who drove away from his trailer.
“I had a career in identifying absurdity, and I know it when I see it,” said Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” performer and writer. “It makes me question your judgment.” He pressed Gorsuch to say what he would have done when faced with the driver’s predicament.
“I don’t know what I would have done if I were in his shoes. I don’t blame him at all for doing what he did do. I thought a lot about this case. I totally empathize.”
Franken shot back. “I would have done exactly what he did. And I think everyone here would have done exactly what he did. And I think it is an easy answer.”
In response to questioning from Minnesota’s other senator, Amy Klobuchar, Gorsuch said he has “an open mind” about cameras in the Supreme Court and acknowledged that there were justices on both sides of the issue.
Most justices have expressed opposition to cameras, including some who seemed open to the idea at their own Senate confirmation hearings.
Klobuchar and four other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced legislation last week to allow cameras during open proceedings of the Supreme Court. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is also a sponsor.
The committee approved similar bills in 2010 and 2012, but the proposal has never become law.
Klobuchar also asked Gorsuch about gender and his originalist interpretation of the Constitution.
She wanted to know whether the consistent use of the words “he” or “his” in the Constitution in describing the role of the president meant that the only a man can be president.
“So when the Constitution refers like 30-some times to ‘his’ or ‘he’ when describing the president of the United States, you would say that, as well, back then they actually thought a woman could be president even though women couldn’t vote?” she asked.
“Senator, I’m not looking to take us back to quill pens and horse and buggy,” he replied.
“But if you could just answer that question, it’s pretty important to me,” responded Klobuchar, who also sought out his views on campaign finance laws and judicial ethics rules.
“I’m trying to,” he said. “Of course, women can be president of the United States. I’m the father of two daughters and I hope one of them turns out to be president of the United States.”
This report includes material from the Tribune Washington Bureau and the Associated Press.