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Judge Gorsuch takes heat on day two

Herb Boyd | 3/23/2017, 11:10 a.m.
President Trump and the GOP are hoping to salvage at least a scintilla of victory with the confirmation of Neil ...
Neil Gorsuch POOL photo

President Trump and the GOP are hoping to salvage at least a scintilla of victory with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice. After taking a shellacking from the FBI during the hearings before the House Intelligence Committee, the Trump administration is confident that Gorsuch will make it to the Court.

On the second day of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch cited his former boss, Justice Byron R. “Whizzer” White, promising to adhere to “a fierce, rugged independence.”

“That’s a softball, Mr. Chairman,” Gorsuch said in response to Sen. Charles Grassley’s opening question if he would have any trouble ruling against Trump. He said he would have “no difficulty” ruling for or against any party.

One of the main issues posed by Senate Democrats is Gorsuch’s position on workers’ rights, and California Sen. Diane Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, led the charge, asking him whether he was prepared to give “a worker a fair shot.”

He listed several cases in which he had ruled and called himself “a fair judge.”

Feinstein fired again, asking him where he stood on decisions rendered by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the man he hopes to replace on the bench. As before, Gorsuch hedged, refusing to be absolutely forthcoming on the questions.

He was equally noncommittal when it came to Roe v. Wade, answering that there should be no “litmus test for a judge.”

Some of the day’s toughest grilling came from Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who recounted a case in the 10th Circuit in which Gorsuch was the lone dissenting vote in the case of a man who had to either follow orders and freeze to death or abandon his truck with frozen brakes on an Illinois highway. The driver was fired for disobeying orders from the company to stay with his truck after he went looking for gas.

The driver, Alphonse Maddin, a Black man, sued and an arbitrator ruled that his termination was illegal under laws protecting employees from being forced to operate a vehicle in unsafe conditions. After a series of appeals, the judges sided with Maddin 2 to 1, with Gorsuch dissenting.

Durbin recalled that Maddin said it was 14 degrees below zero. “So cold,” Durbin cracked, “but not as cold as your dissent, Judge Gorsuch.”

Other members of the committee, including Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, hammered away on the same case.

For the most part, Gorsuch was unruffled and calm, explaining the case and answering other tough questions for the Democrats.

Thus far, none of the committee members have raised a question about Gorsuch’s ruling to protect a police officer who killed a young man with a stun gun as he ran away from officers.

The quip of the day belonged to Gorsuch, who when asked if Trump had asked him to overturn Roe v. Wade, answered, “I would have walked out of the room.”

Despite the testy exchanges Gorsuch held serve and the Dems will have to volley a little harder to shake the nominee.

But tomorrow is another day, said Scarlett O’Hara, and it could be an even worse one for the GOP if it fails to find the votes needed to replace Obamacare.