WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday “there is a great deal of skepticism” in the Democratic caucus about the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court but declined to predict if Democrats would block Gorsuch with a filibuster.
Schumer’s comments come five days before Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings begin Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I think many of my colleagues are skeptical but waiting for the hearings,” Schumer said at a news conference. “I have touched base with a good number of my colleagues. After the hearings, I intend to make my views very strongly known to them. Each member will make his or her own decision.”
If the 48 members of the Democratic caucus stay united, they would be able to block Gorsuch, who sits on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and lives in Boulder, from getting the 60 votes he would need to advance to a final vote.
Republican leaders and strategists for President Donald Trump are themselves skeptical all Democrats — especially moderates running for re-election in red states — will block Gorsuch, who has a strong legal background.
One such Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, said he has not made up his mind.
“I want to give him time to get through the hearing,” Tester said. “I’m going to do what I think is right for the court and the judicial branch. If that means voting for or against him, I’ll do one or another when it comes.”
One critical issue facing Democrats is the possibility that if they block Gorsuch, Republicans might use the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules without Democratic support to lower the number of votes needed to break a filibuster.
That would clear the way for Gorsuch and any future Trump nominees to the high court to be cleared on party line votes.
Democrats used the same mechanism over the objection of Republicans during the last Congress to clear passage for President Barack Obama’s executive branch and lower court nominees.
Schumer, who is both the Democratic leader and a long-standing member of the Judiciary Committee, is likely to carry a lot of sway with fellow Democrats. He said he is leaning against voting for Gorsuch.
“I have a strong presumption against. The hearing would have to turn a lot of those presumptions around for me to change my mind but I’m waiting for the hearings to make a final decision,” he said.
Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., spoke at a news conference in the Capitol with several Americans who are unhappy with decisions Gorsuch made in their cases.
They argued Gorsuch’s decisions tilt in favor of big business over individuals.