With Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing set to begin in less than one week, advocacy groups are highlighting the federal judge's troubling record on issues ranging from reproductive rights to labor protections to campaign finance law.
Gorsuch will sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee starting Monday, March 20. According to Politico on Tuesday, "some Democrats are privately beginning to believe that Gorsuch—barring a blunder at his Senate confirmation hearings next week—will clinch the 60 votes he needs to be approved without a filibuster."
"Based on his record, writings, and the circumstances of his nomination, we believe Gorsuch would put reproductive freedom in grave danger and pose an imminent threat to our constitutional rights."
—50+ women's rights groups
"Gorsuch has demonstrated he will go to extraordinary lengths to reach a result that would block women's access to basic reproductive healthcare," the groups wrote, noting that Gorsuch appears set to pass the "outrageous litmus test" established by President Donald Trump that any Supreme Court nominee be committed to overturning Roe v. Wade.
"By selecting Gorsuch, a candidate put forward by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, Trump made it clear he believes Gorsuch passes this dangerous test and earned the applause of anti-abortion groups—including Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, and the extremist group Operation Rescue," the letter reads. "Based on his record, writings, and the circumstances of his nomination, we believe Gorsuch would put reproductive freedom in grave danger and pose an imminent threat to our constitutional rights."
Also Tuesday, 121 democracy, civil rights, environmental, and labor organizations separately asked members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to probe Gorsuch's position on the role of big money in politics. The letter (pdf) coordinated by Demos and Every Voice urges senators to ask this "essential question":
Will Judge Gorsuch's legal philosophy lead him to strike down even more protections against the use of corporate or personal wealth to influence elections, such as candidate and party contribution limits, or will he permit sensible limits on political money in order to ensure the voices and will of all Americans are fully represented within the political process?
(The groups' call is perfectly timed. A Demos investigation published Tuesday "shows that 77 percent of money spent in competitive races in 2016 was directly attributable to Supreme Court rulings striking down basic protections against big money dominating our politics.")
"Time after time, Judge Gorsuch has sided with the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else," said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO at Every Voice. "If promoted to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch could hand even more influence to big donors and corporations in our elections. Senators have a responsibility to press Judge Gorsuch at his hearing on whether he will side with everyday Americans and ensure the influence of money in politics is kept in check."
This argument is in keeping with elected Democrats' planned "line of attack," identified by the New York Times on Monday. Democrats plan to suggest, the Times wrote, that "Judge Gorsuch's rulings have favored the powerful and well connected."
The Times reported:
Democrats are expected to point out several instances they say highlight his tendency to side against the little guy. In one case, Judge Gorsuch argued in a dissent that a company was permitted to fire a truck driver for abandoning his cargo for his own safety in subzero temperatures.
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In another, he ruled against a family seeking reimbursement under a federal disabilities law for the cost of sending a child with severe autism to a specialized school. Then there was the professor who lost her job after taking time off to recover from cancer: Judge Gorsuch denied her federal discrimination claim, saying that while the predicament was "in no way of her own making," it was "a problem other forms of social security aim to address."
"You can find example after example of Judge Gorsuch siding against workers even in the most dire circumstances," Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the No. 3 ranking Senate Democrat, said last week at an event with union and disability rights representatives.
Furthermore, the Times added, "Mr. Trump's decision last week to ask for the resignations of dozens of United States attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama—a prerogative of any president—is expected to sharpen Democrats' focus on Mr. Trump's respect for legal processes and Judge Gorsuch's degree of independence."
"We must have a Supreme Court that acts a check and balance, not a rubber stamp. Gorsuch has shown he is not up to the task."
—Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera
As Voces de la Frontera executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz declared Tuesday, "Donald Trump's relentless attacks on immigrants show that now more than ever, we must have a Supreme Court that acts a check and balance, not a rubber stamp. Gorsuch has shown he is not up to the task."
Indeed, following last month's public battle between Trump and the judiciary, GQ writer Jay Willis predicted that the matter of judicial independence will almost certainly feature prominently during Gorsuch's confirmation hearing.
At the hearing, Willis wrote at the time, "[t]his question...will be near-impossible to duck":
"Do you endorse the president's stated belief that the federal judiciary is beneath the president and bows to his will?" Gorusch would never say yes, of course, because he's a federal judge himself, and no federal judge believes this, and saying so would be a giant middle finger to his colleagues everywhere. But if Gorusch says no, he turns that same middle finger to the guy who just nominated him for the Supreme Court, and—assuming he's eventually confirmed—makes it very hard for him to explain himself if he one day votes to uphold the ban. Gorsuch already faced a grueling confirmation process, and last night, Donald Trump didn't make things any easier.
Left-leaning groups aren't the only ones organizing around Gorsuch's pending hearing. The National Rifle Association's (NRA) Freedom Action Foundation has reportedly made a $1 million ad buy highlighting how gun rights hang in the balance given the current composition of the Supreme Court. The ads are set to run Tuesday through March 22, according to McClatchy, which also reported:
Gorsuch's conservative views on issues, including the Second Amendment, have echoed [late Justice Antonin] Scalia's positions and will take on more weight amid the higher-stakes Supreme Court fight.
"Gun possession is often lawful and sometimes even protected as a matter of constitutional right," Gorsuch stressed in a 2012 dissent, adding that the felon convicted of possessing a firearm "might very well be wrongfully imprisoned."
Tuesday's efforts come on the heels of a letter sent earlier this month to Senate Democrats by 11 leading progressive groups, urging lawmakers to "do better" in resisting Gorsuch's nomination.
"As a judge, Gorsuch opposed reproductive freedom and women's rights; LGBTQ rights; civil rights; workers' rights; immigrants' rights; disability rights; environmental protections; and sought to increase the influence of corporate money in our elections," they wrote. "Imagine how much damage he could do with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court."