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Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said he'd speak against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch "as long as I'm able." (Photo: Screenshot)

Merkley Holds the Floor for More Than 15 Hours Against 'Extreme' Gorsuch

'This assault on our democracy demands as robust a resistance as we can possibly mount'

Deirdre Fulton

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) held the Senate floor overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday, talking for more than 15 hours about his opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Merkley's talk-a-thon, which began around 6:45pm Tuesday, ended after 10:00am Wednesday. Votes on Gorsuch, who faces a Democratic filibuster, are expected to begin Thursday. Republican leaders—who blockaded former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, for 10 months—have vowed to confirm Gorsuch on Friday, before leaving for Easter recess.

"By stealing a Supreme Court seat for the first time in American history, the Senate is undermining the court and the rule of law, and turning the highest court in the land into a political committee," Merkley wrote on his Facebook page. "This assault on our democracy demands as robust a resistance as we can possibly mount."

The former triathlete explained further as his all-nighter began: "The majority team in this chamber decided to steal a Supreme Court seat... The majority said, 'We intend to pack the court of the United States of America.' It was a warfare tactic of partisanship."

From there, Merkley's overnight resistance covered topics ranging from Gorsuch's anti-worker and anti-woman court decisions to the "premature" nature of confirming a lifetime appointment while the investigations are underway into ties between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign. He cited Politico's reporting from Tuesday that Gorsuch plagiarized language from a law journal for his book published in 2006, and talked about the federal judge's ties to "secretive billionaire" Philip F. Anschutz, revealed last month by the New York Times. He delved into how Gorsuch could impact efforts to protect the environment and "lamented creeping commercialism and an erosion of civic participation," according to the Times.

Over the course of the verbal marathon, Merkley was cheered on by several of his Senate colleagues.

Clips of Merkley's effort can be watched below:

The progressive senator from Oregon also laid out his opposition in an op-ed published Tuesday at the Huffington Post. "A look at Gorsuch's decisions shows a disturbing pattern of a conservative activist twisting the law to find in favor of corporations and the powerful," he wrote.

He continued:

[M]aybe the best example of Gorsuch's extreme activism was his effort to rewrite the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). This special education law was expressly crafted to ensure that children with disabilities get an "appropriate education." Yet Gorsuch ruled that an autistic boy's public school had only to provide him with "merely more than de minimus" education under the law. In other words, despite the clear intent and language of the law to educate students, Gorsuch again twisted the law to say that warehousing these children is fine.

This decision is both offensive and far outside the mainstream. Don't take my word for it: Less than two weeks ago the Supreme Court overturned Gorsuch's decision on an 8-0 vote. In the words of Chief Justice Roberts: "When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing 'merely more than de minimis' progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all." Even the most conservative justices recognized the Gorsuch decision as changing the entire intent of the IDEA.

Watch Wednesday's Senate proceedings live at C-SPAN.

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