With confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch beginning Monday, the question remains whether Democrats will stand up for the rights of people, or if they will cave to Republican pressure and back the extremist judge.
Given President Donald Trump's myriad conflicts of interest, as well as the ongoing investigations into possible Russian meddling in the election, Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that "the independence of the judiciary will be front and center as we begin questioning Judge Gorsuch today, because he has to establish that he will be independent."
"I think that every nominee is important. If I conclude this one is outside the mainstream, I will use every tool at my disposal and I think my Democratic colleagues share that view," Blumenthal told CNN.
But progressive groups and concerned citizens say it is well established that Trump's pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia is quite "outside the mainstream."
Gorsuch's judicial record has been consistently anti-worker, anti-women, and pro-corporate. Countering the oft-repeated idea that Gorsuch is a "relatively mainstream" selection, the Indivisible Movement has published a series of primer documents on the judge's "supremely extreme" rulings and opinions and is urging voters to call their senators.
"At a moment when the awesome power of the presidency is in the hands of someone who has shown contempt for our Constitution, our independent judiciary, our free press, and the principles that make our nation a beacon of democracy, this decision is more consequential than at any time in recent history."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren
"So far, Democrats have been indecisive and quiet in their response to Judge Gorsuch's nomination," the group states. "Together, let's make sure that they hear our demand for a moderate justice who reflects American values—and that Donald Trump and Republican leaders remember they are accountable to their constituents, who deserve a fair, bipartisan confirmation process that doesn't put extremists on the Court."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote Monday that time and again Gorsuch has shown "a remarkable ability to shape and re-shape legal arguments in ways that benefit large corporations and disadvantage ordinary people seeking justice," repeatedly siding with the "rights" of corporations over women, consumers, and workers.
Further, she noted in the Boston Globe op-ed that his nomination is the latest assault within "a deliberate strategy by powerful interests to turn our courts over to the highest bidder."
Watch the hearing live on C-SPAN here. Or below:
Outlining why it is so imperative that her Democratic colleagues "block" Gorsuch's nomination, Warren continued:
The next Supreme Court justice will help determine whether our courts will serve the interests of all of us or bend to the will of the powerful moneyed few who helped place them on the court.
There is only one question that should guide us in that decision: whether the nominee will defend equal justice for every single one of us—rich or poor, black or white, female or male, gay or straight, popular or unpopular. Gorsuch's record shows that he is not that nominee.
At a moment when the awesome power of the presidency is in the hands of someone who has shown contempt for our Constitution, our independent judiciary, our free press, and the principles that make our nation a beacon of democracy, this decision is more consequential than at any time in recent history. We cannot stand down when the president of the United States attempts to hand our highest court over to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile, even more evidence of Gorsuch's extremist point of view percolated ahead of the hearing.
A former student of Gorsuch's sent a letter to judiciary committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democratic member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Friday warning that as a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, Gorsuch said that "many women" abuse maternity benefits. Thus, he reasoned that it is legal for a future employer to ask female interviewees about their pregnancy and family plans to "protect themselves," as attorney Jennifer Sisk put it, "against their female employees."
Emails uncovered by The Nation's Ari Berman also highlight Gorsuch's praise and interest in the work of Hans von Spakovsky, an attorney who, according to Berman, has "been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote."
And last week a trove of documents about Gorsuch's role in defending torture and detention policies under former President George W. Bush raised more than a few eyebrows.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued a statement on Monday calling on members of the judiciary committee to "vigorously scrutinize" Gorsuch's record and judicial philosophy.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee must not allow Judge Gorsuch to duck or evade important questions," Henderson said. "The American people have a right to know precisely how Judge Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court would impact their rights, freedoms, and liberties."
The Leadership Conference and 115 other national civil and human rights organizations sent a letter to the Senate on Friday objecting to Gorsuch's confirmation. On Monday, critics, including women's rights, environmental, and pro-democracy groups, are packing the hearing's halls and rallying outside on Capitol Hill to make their opposition known.
— Courtney Hight (@c_hight) March 20, 2017
— PFAW (@peoplefor) March 20, 2017
— NARAL (@NARAL) March 20, 2017