WASHINGTON – Before the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court along party lines, Minnesota’s senators joined other Democrats on the panel in criticizing him for not protecting the interests of vulnerable people.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar renewed concern about a Supreme Court decision last month that required schools to provide better services for special education students. The ruling rejected a standard set by Gorsuch on the appeals court in 2008, in which he ruled that a Colorado school district didn’t have to pay for the private school tuition of an autistic boy.
She said that it wasn’t an example of being bound by precedent – Gorsuch had gone further than he needed to with the law.
“All children, particularly those with disabilities, deserve the tools they need to succeed in life,” said Klobuchar.
Klobuchar also criticized Republicans for not holding hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nomination to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
“He got zero votes, because this Senate and the majority decided to sit on it for almost an entire year,” said Klobuchar.
She also voiced concern about a concurring opinion he made in Riddle v. Hickenlooper suggesting that the court scrutinize laws restricting campaign contributions. Klobuchar added that senators had repeatedly asked the judge about his views on campaign finance but were never told what he considered a proper legal standard for evaluating campaign finance laws.
Sen. Franken said he had a “disturbing pattern of siding with corporate interests against everyday Americans.” He spoke at length about Gorsuch’s dissent in a case involving a truck driver for TransAm, Alphonse Maddin, who argued that he was wrongfully fired for disobeying a supervisor’s orders to stay with a faulty trailer for hours in subzero temperatures. Concerned he would freeze to death, Maddin unhitched the trailer and drove away.
Gorsuch indicated he didn’t know what he would have done in that situation when Franken pressed him on the matter at last month’s hearings.
“Now is there anyone here who would not have done exactly what the driver did? I don’t think so,” said Franken. “Of course you would unhitch the trailer and go find a place to get warm.”
Franken added that if Gorsuch had no good answer: if he admitted he would have done the same thing, his dissent would look absurd. If he said he would have followed the company’s orders, “that would have told us he has really bad judgement.”
He criticized Gorsuch for dodging questions and giving cagey, elusive answers and said that his judicial record wasn’t reassuring.
“Judge Gorsuch has consistently ruled in favor of powerful interests,” said Franken.
Klobuchar and Franken were among the 9 judiciary members to vote against Gorsuch; 11 senators supported him. The matter now goes to the full Senate, where Democrats say they have enough votes to block Gorsuch and the GOP is vowing to rewrite Senate rules to push through the nomination.