Live coverage: Day two of Supreme Court nominee hearing
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, made it through his first day of confirmation hearings without a scratch.

The real fireworks were set for Tuesday, when each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee got 30 minutes to grill the 10-year veteran of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on his judicial philosophy.

Read a recap of the second day of hearings here.

 

Judiciary panel wraps on day 2
8:52 p.m. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up the second day of hearings on Gorsuch’s nomination Tuesday following more than 9 hours of testimony. 

Sens. Thom Thillis (R-N.C.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) were the last members of the committee to ask questions. Tillis took about 15 minutes, in which he praised Gorsuch and vowed to fight for his confirmation.

Tillis said Republicans have the moral high ground because they did not block the confirmations of Justice Elena Kagan or Justice Sonia Sotomayor, both nominated by former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocratic governors fizzle in presidential race Obamas reportedly buying Martha's Vineyard mansion Trump has 62 percent disapproval rating in new AP poll MORE.

Kennedy, meanwhile, asked Gorsuch for clarity on why he had recused himself from more than 1,000 cases. Gorsuch said he was “blessed with an active and robust practice” as a private attorney and didn’t want to “cause an unnecessary recusal problem later.”

The Louisiana senator also asked Gorsuch if he could name something he thought was a good idea, but was unconstitutional.

“Oh senator, it’s been a long day,” Gorsuch said with a sigh.

“And you’re this close to 'CSI,'” Kennedy said, drawing laughter from the remaining audience.

Gorsuch said he was sure he could conjure something, but he wouldn’t be able to opine on it if could.

“It’s just not my job,” he said.

Kennedy also asked Gorsuch if he knew Obama, with whom he attended law school. 

“I knew him, but not well,” Gorsuch said. “It was a big school.”

Tillis said senators will return Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. for the third day of hearings. Each committee member will get 20 minutes for in a second a second round of questions.

 

Gorsuch: Lots of room for Congress to regulate campaign fundraising
7:26 p.m.

Gorsuch assured Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' Schumer to Trump: Demand McConnell hold vote on background check bill MORE (D-Hawaii) that Congress has a lot of latitude to regulate the influence of money in politics. 

He said just because the Supreme Court struck down major sections of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, other reforms may stand court scrutiny. 

Hirono asked what restrictions there are on foreign companies from funneling money into the American political process through U.S. subsidiaries or other domestic-based middlemen. 

“There’s lots of room for congressional regulation,” he said. “The Supreme Court has made clear that foreign money in particular is an area where Congress has substantial authority available to them.”

Hirono asked if the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down federal restrictions on political spending by organizations — giving corporations and unions unfettered ability to spend on political ads — allows Congress to stop foreign money from influencing American elections.

Gorsuch said there is “ample room” in the area of campaign finance for further legislation.

“It struck down one law. That does not mean that every law will be stricken. It does not mean that Congress has no role,” he said.

Liberal activists have made the overturning of Citizens United a high priority and had hoped that President Obama’s nominee to the court in 2016, Judge Merrick Garland, would provide a pivotal vote.

Republicans, however, blocked Garland, leaving open the vacancy that Gorsuch is now set to fill. 

 

Blumenthal presses Gorsuch on conversations with Trump 
6:30 p.m. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pressed Gorsuch for specifics on the conversation he had with President Trump, given his testimony earlier in the day that the president never asked him to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Was there any mention of Roe v. Wade?” Blumenthal asked. “What did you say and what did he say?”

Gorsuch said the president talked to him about how the campaign went in his home state of Colorado, and how he was disappointed that he lost there but felt he could have won if he had more time. Gorsuch said Trump said only that abortion was a divisive issue in the campaign and then "moved on to other topics."

“Was Roe v Wade mentioned by name?” Blumenthal asked.

“I don’t think so,” Gorsuch said. “Not to my recollection.”

 

Gorsuch: Trump criticism of federal judge 'disheartening' and 'demoralizing'
6:25 p.m.

Gorsuch corroborated Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) revelation earlier this year that he found President Trump’s criticism of a federal judge who ruled against his travel ban “disheartening.”

Blumenthal told reporters that Gorsuch admitted in a private meeting last month that he found Trump’s criticism of James Robart, a judge for the Western District of Washington, “disheartening” and “demoralizing” after the president blasted him as a so-called judge.

Trump later attacked Blumenthal’s version of events by pointing to his past misrepresentation of his Vietnam War record.

But Gorsuch on Tuesday evening largely backed up Blumenthal.

“I know these people and how decent they are and when anyone criticizes the honesty, integrity and motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening and demoralizing because I know the truth,” Gorsuch told Blumenthal when asked to recall last month’s meeting. 

“Anyone including the president of the United States?” Blumethal asked.
 
“Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch said.

 

Franken laughs at GOP senator’s questioning
6 p.m.   

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFormer GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again MORE (D-Minn.) burst out laughing after a Republican colleague asked Gorsuch a series of softball questions.

Arizona Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument MORE (R), reading a text sent to him from his brother, asked whether the judge had ever worn gym shorts and a tank top under his robe. He then asked the nominee if he likes to ski and what’s the largest trout he ever caught.

When Flake asked Gorsuch if he had ever been called to jury duty, Franken – who earlier in the hearing noted that he made a career in identifying the "absurd" as a comedian – busted out laughing, interrupting the conversation.

“I just thought it was a very odd question for this, but it's great, I’m sorry I laughed,” Franken explained.

Flake said he wanted to know if judges get called for jury duty and Gorsuch defended it as a “very excellent question.”

Gorsuch said he was sure that he would get kicked off the jury but wound up getting selected and was even tapped by his peers to serve as foreman when he went to the bathroom.

“That was a great question,” Franken added after Gorsuch said he came out of the experience a bigger believer in the jury process.

“Thanks, Al,” Flake said. 

 

Flake gets personal
5:55 p.m.  

Back from a short break, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) asked Gorsuch a series of lighthearted questions to get to know the nominee.

The exchange felt more like questions one would answer for a dating profile than a Supreme Court nomination.

Flake said his brother wanted to know if he’s ever worn gym shorts and a tank top under is robe. 

Gorsuch pleaded the Fifth.

Flake then said mother wanted to know how Gorsuch spends his time and how he gets his hands dirty.

In addition to love of skiing, a passion shared by the entire family, Gorsuch said he loves to read great fiction.

 

Gorsuch pressed on Trump aide comments: 'I am my own man'
4:45 p.m. 

Gorsuch insisted he was his "own man" after Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) quoted White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who said at the Conservative Political Action Committee that Gorsuch's confirmation could potentially change 40 years of law.

"You and your colleagues here have said the job of a judge is to follow the law even if he dislikes the results, you said that," Franken said. "It can't be both, so which is it?"

Gorsuch said his job is to be a judge, adding, "To be fair, to follow the law and apply the facts and circumstances in each case and live out my judicial oath."

Franken pressed further, quoting Priebus saying Gorsuch's nomination was essential to President Trump fulfilling his policy objectives.

"What do you think Mr. Priebus was talking about? Was he suggesting if confirmed you'd be in a position to shape the court's decisions for the next 40 years, or was he suggesting that you can reach back 40 years?" Franken asked, noting Roe v. Wade was decided 44 years ago.

"Respectfully, Mr. Priebus doesn't speak for me and I don’t speak for him," Gorsuch responded. "I don’t appreciate it when people characterize me ... I am a judge. I am my own man."

 

Franken calls Gorsuch truck driver ruling absurd
4:20 p.m. 

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) slammed Gorsuch, calling his dissent from the 10th Circuit ruling siding with a truck driver who had been wrongly fired “absurd.”

“I have had a career identifying absurdity and I know it when I see it,” the former comedian and “Saturday Night Live” star said. “It makes me question your judgment.”

The case dealt with a truck driver who was fired because he left his cargo on the roadside to seek shelter after waiting for roadside assistance in freezing temperatures for hours.

Franken said Gorsuch relied on the plain meaning rule in siding with the trucking company. That rule says when the meaning of a statute or contract is unambiguous and clear on its face, the court must rely on that meaning.  

“But the plain meaning rule has an exception,” Franken said. “When using the plain meaning rule would create an absurd result, courts should depart from the plain meaning. It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made a choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die by driving a broken truck.”

 

Gorsuch: Of course women can be president
3:15 p.m. 

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-Minn.) pressed Gorsuch on his originalist view of the Constitution.

"So when the Constitution refers 30-some times to 'his' or 'he' when describing the president of the United States, you would see that as, ‘Well back then they actually thought a woman could be president even through women couldn’t vote?’” she asked.

“Senator, um I’m not looking to take us back to quill pens and horse and buggies,” Gorsuch responded.

But Klobuchar pushed him for an answer, saying, “It’s very important to me”

“Of course women can be president of the United States,” Gorsuch responded emphatically, leaning in and shaking his hand.

“I’m a father of two daughters and I hope one of them turns out to be president of the United States.”

 

Gorsuch has open mind on cameras in the court 
2:55 p.m. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) kicked off her questioning with softball, asking Gorsuch how he feels about allowing cameras in federal courtrooms. 

Klobuchar is co-sponsoring a bill with Grassley to give all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the option of allowing court proceedings to be photographed, recorded and broadcasted. 

"I come to it with an open mind," Gorsuch said. 

He said he hasn't given it a great deal of thought, but would want to hear the arguments on both sides of the issue. 

"I've experienced more cameras in the last few weeks than I have in my lifetime," he said, laughing. "The lights in my eyes are a bit blinding at times, so I have to get used to that."

Gorsuch went on to say that he knows there are justices on both sides of the debate. 

"I think Justice Souter said over his dead body," Klobuchar said. "I was hoping things had changed."

 

Whitehouse, Gorsuch clash over money in politics
2:19 p.m.

In the testiest exchange of the confirmation hearings so far, Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-R.I.) challenged Gorsuch’s evasiveness on the question of how courts should regulate the presence of money in politics. 

Gorsuch attempted to deflect Whitehouse’s pointed questioning by harking back to Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark Supreme Court decision on money in politics.

But Whitehouse cut him off right away, insisting that the nominee discuss his values and explain whether he thinks the perception of special interest corruption is a problem that the public has a compelling interest in combating.

“The part of the decision that is guided by precedent is not the part that I’m asking about,” Whitehouse said.

“The part that I’m asking about is the values determination. I’m trying to determine whether openness with respect to the money that flows around in our democracy in such large numbers right now is a value that is worth pursuing.”

“Is it a touchstone? Is it a lodestar or is it just a burden on people’s communications?” he asked.

Gorsuch said he would refer the senator again to Buckley v. Valeo.

“I’m asking, actually, you,” Whitehouse replied, losing patience.

That seemed to get a rise out of the so-far unflappable Gorsuch.

“I’m giving you my answer, the best I can,” he replied briskly. “Which is the First Amendment, which I’m sworn to uphold as a judge, contains two competing messages.”

The amendment, he explains, recognizes the rights of Congress to legislate against the appearance of corruption, but also provides the underpinning for limits on regulation of fundraising as something that could chill free speech.    

 

Gorsuch refuses to ask shadowy backers to reveal themselves
2:03 p.m. 

Gorsuch pointedly refused Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) request that the nominee publicly ask conservative donors funding a $10 million advertising campaign run by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network to identify themselves.

Though he did not name Judicial Crisis Network by name, Whitehouse asked why the group spent at least $7 million to keep President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland from getting a confirmation hearing and is now spending $10 million to get Gorsuch confirmed.

“Ask them,” Gorsuch said.

“I can’t, because I don’t know who they are,” Whitehouse replied. 

Whitehouse asked Gorsuch to push his anonymous backers to reveal themselves, so the public could know what interests favor his confirmation.

“You could ask right now as a matter of courtesy, as a matter of respect for the process that anybody funding this should declare themselves right now so we can evaluate who is behind this effort,” Whitehouse said.

Gorsuch declined to take the bait.

“It would be a politics question and I’m not, with all respect senator, going to get involved in politics,” he said.

Gorsuch said if lawmakers want to pass legislation that would require that political advocacy groups to disclose their donors, they could do that.

“If you want to have more disclosure, pass a law,” he said.

Whitehouse retorted that Gorsuch's answer was not sufficient because he failed to state his "values" on the perceived problem of special interest influence in the political process.

  

Gorsuch says he applied Chevron Deference in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch
1:45 p.m. 

Gorsuch pushed back against the narrative advanced by Democrats that he is radically skeptical of the Chevron Deference, a foundational doctrine under which courts give federal agencies wide latitude to interpret laws.

The nominee has come under fire for a concurrence he wrote questioning whether it permits “executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power.”

He argued in testimony, however, that the majority opinion applied the Chevron Doctrine, even though he did not necessarily agree with it. He pointed to the ruling as another instance in which he was willing to apply the law without regard to his personal preference.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case that the Board of Immigration Appeals could not apply its interpretation of law retroactively and wipe out an earlier court finding affecting the immigration status of Hugo Gutierrez-Brizuela.

The agency’s interpretation and retroactive application of its finding would have cost the litigant the seven years he had waited to achieve lawful residency.

Gorsuch argued that his majority opinion recognized the Chevron Deference, and said he questioned its widely regarded supremacy only in the concurring opinion that he said was meant to “tee up” the question for the Supreme Court.

“So you actually applied the Chevron test in your judgment, but wrote a separate opinion raising these questions perhaps for review by the Supreme Court?” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (R-Texas) asked.

“I follow precedent,” Gorsuch answered solemnly.

He insisted that he does not know how he would rule on the Chevron Doctrine if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

“I’d want to do what a good judge does. Keep an open mind, read the briefs. I could change my mind,” he said. 

 

Gorsuch shoots down accusations he supports pregnancy discrimination 
1:25 p.m. 

A heated moment came when Durbin pushed Gorsuch for his views on pregnancy discrimination.

The Illinois Democrat asked the nominee if he agrees that cost is justification for an employer asking only female applicants about family planning and not male applicants.

“Those are not my words and I never said them,” Gorsuch said, defensively.

"I didn’t say that," Durbin said. "I’m asking if you agree with the statement.”

Durbin then brought up a letter two of Gorsuch’s former law students at Colorado Law School sent the committee accusing Gorsuch of implying in a class discussion that pregnant women take advantage of employers.

Durbin asked Gorsuch is he in fact asked his students to raise their hands if they knew of a woman who took maternity benefits from a company and then left the company after having a baby.

“No and I’d like to clear this up,” Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch said he was teaching a chapter from a textbook in his ethics class about what lawyers face when they enter the practice. He said there is a question in the book directed at young women that asks what they would do if they're asked in a job interview if they plan to have children.

“I do ask for a show of hands, not about the question you asked," Gorsuch said.

He said he asks "How many of you have had questions like this asked of you in the employment environment, an inappropriate question about your family planning?"

"And I am shocked how many young women raise their hand," he said. "It’s disturbing to me."

 

Gorsuch grilled on LGBT views 
1 p.m. 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (D-Ill.) pressed Gorsuch on his relationship with his former Oxford professor John Finnis and asked if he was aware that his mentor had compared homosexuality to bestiality.

Gorsuch said he couldn't recall the specifics of that testimony. 

"This is a man who apparently had an impact on your life, certainly your academic life, and I'm trying to figure out where we can parse his views from your views, what impact he’s had on you as a student and what impact he's had on you today with his views," Durbin said. 

Gorsuch asked Durbin to instead judge him on his credential and his record, not that of his former professor. He noted that he's done capital habeas work and has spoken publicly about over-criminalization.

"And what about LGBTQ individuals?" Durbin continued.

"What about them?" Gorsuch retorted. "They're people." 

Durbin asked Gorsuch if he can point to statements or cases he's ruled on relevant to protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people.

"I've tried to treat each case and each person as a person — not this kind of person or that kind of person, but as a person," Gorsuch continued. 

When pressed further, Gorsuch said the Supreme Court has held that same-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution.

  

Gorsuch: Trump never asked me to rule against Roe v. Wade 
11:55 a.m. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death MORE (R-S.C.) asked Gorsuch if Trump, during the interview process, ever asked the judge to rule against the landmark case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

“Senator, I would have walked out the door,” Gorsuch replied.

“It’s not what judges do. I don’t do it at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and they shouldn’t do it at this end either, respectfully.”

 

Gorsuch doesn't rule out letting president supersede surveillance law
11:53 a.m.

“No man is above the law,” Gorsuch told senators, though he declined to say whether he would stop Trump if he ordered his administration to snoop on American citizens, despite the congressional prohibition on such action.

The answer came in response to Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (D-Vt.), who asked whether the president has the power to violate a congressionally passed surveillance ban.

But when pressed about whether Trump has the power to supersede the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which limits the collection of metadata about telephone communications, Gorsuch backed off.

“Senator, I can’t issue advisory opinions at this table on cases and controversies and how they would come out. I just can’t do it. It wouldn’t be responsible,” he said. 

He also backed away from passing judgment on former President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.

“As a judge, before I even try to decide a question like that, I’d want briefs argument and I’d want to go through the whole judicial process,” he said. “I wouldn’t begin to try to offer an off-the-cuff opinion.”

But he emphasized that he would take the restrictions Congress attempts to place on intelligence collection very seriously.

“Every law this body passes, I take seriously. I respect this body, and nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the president of the United States,” he said.

 

Gorsuch dodges questions on Trump's travel ban
11:44 a.m.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pressed Gorsuch on whether Trump’s travel ban is constitutional under the First Amendment.

Gorsuch said the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion in this country, but refused to answer whether Trump’s ban would be constitutional.

“Senator, we have a free exercise clause that protects the free exercise of religious liberties by all persons in this country,” he said. “If you’re asking how I’d apply that to a certain case, I can’t talk about that for certain reasons.”

Leahy noted that a Republican congressman said the best thing Trump can do for his Muslim ban is to make sure Gorsuch gets on the bench before the government's appeal reaches the Supreme Court.

“Senator, a lot of people say a lot of silly things,” Gorsuch said.

“That’s more than silly," Leahy retorted. “This congressman wants you on the court so you can uphold a Muslim ban."

"Senator, he has no idea how I’d rule in that case, and senator, I’m not going to say anything here that would give anybody an idea how I’d rule in any case like that that could come before the Supreme Court or the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Gorsuch said. "It would be grossly improper for a judge to do that."

 

Gorsuch points to multiple restrictions against torture
11:41 a.m.

Gorsuch indicated that Trump would face high legal hurdles if he attempts to subject terrorism detainees to harsh interrogation practices that could be described as torture.

Trump said in an interview with ABC News earlier this year that the United States must be ready to use harsh tactics to fight terrorists and “fight fire with fire.”  

“Absolutely, I feel it works,” he added, referring to torture.

Trump also said, however, he would “do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally.”

Gorsuch on Tuesday gave a clear indication that he would likely find torture outside the bounds of law.

“We have a convention against torture and implementing legislation to ban torture,” he said. “We have a Detainee Treatment Act, which we talked about earlier, which bans cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Asked if the president has the right to authorize torture despite laws passed by Congress, Gorsuch answered, “no man is above the law.”

"I want to do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works."

 

Gorsuch touts rulings for 'the little guy'
11:27 a.m.

Gorsuch at the coaxing of Republican senators portrayed himself as a defender of "the little guy" — taking on the central Democratic criticism of his nomination, specifically that he favors the powerful over the weak.

Democrats say Gorsuch has compiled a strongly pro-corporate record on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and focused Monday on his dissent in a case in which the appellate court ruled in favor of a truck driver who had been fired after refusing to wait for repairs in sub-zero weather.

Gorsuch fought back Tuesday by pointing to his findings on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that favored litigants who could be viewed as “the little guy,” such as Little Sisters of the Poor — which sued the Obama administration over requirements to provide health coverage for contraception — and Andrew Yellowbear, a prison inmate who was denied the ability to access a religious sweat lodge.

He also noted his ruling in favor of a Muslim prisoner who was denied halal meals.

Gorsuch earlier argued that his questioning of the Chevron Deference, under which courts typically give agencies wide latitude in interpreting federal laws, favored regular people whose lives are disrupted by changes in federal rules.

 

Technologies change, principles don’t
10:45 a.m.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) asked Gorsuch how he maintains an originalist view of the Constitution when issues arise involving technologies the Founding Fathers never could have imagined.

“The technology changes, but the principles don’t,” Gorsuch responded.

He went on to cite United States v. Jones, a case that challenged whether police can attach a GPS tracking device to a vehicle to monitor its movements.

Gorsuch said the court reviewed the law and found that attaching a GPS to a car is the same as attaching something to someone else's property, which constitutes as trespass to chattels and a search, even though the technology didn't exist when the law was written.

 

Gorsuch dodges questions on Second Amendment
10:45 a.m.

Gorsuch declined to answer several attempts by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein Trump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, to get him to answer how he might rule in litigation affecting gun owners’ rights.

He praised late Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, as well as retired Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent as “excellent.”

But he declined to say which justice he would likely side with in the gun control debate.

“I am not here to grade my bosses’ work. It would be impertinent of me, I suspect,” he said. “I also worry that saying I agree with one or the other will indicate to clients or litigants in future cases — it’s settled precedent of the United States Supreme Court. It’s binding; it’s the law if we like it or not.”

Feinstein cut off his answer and asked him if he agreed with Scalia that some gun laws, such as restricting access to guns by the mentally ill, are consistent with the “limited nature of the Second Amendment” and that firearms used primarily in military service may be banned.

Gorsuch eluded that question as well.

“Heller makes clear the standard that we judges are supposed to apply,” he said, but declined to reveal his own opinion. “Whatever is in Heller is the law and I follow the law. It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, senator, respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law."

“My job is to apply and enforce the law,” he added.

When asked whether the courts or legislators should settle the ambiguity of the Second Amendment, Gorsuch declined to provide a yes-or-no answer.

"I wish I could," he said.

"I wish you could, too," Feinstein shot back.

 

Feinstein grills Gorsuch over 2005 emails
10:25 a.m.

Feinstein questioned Gorsuch over emails he sent during his time working in the Justice Department that she said appear to advocate the use of torture techniques.

Feinstein was referring to emails he sent in 2005 after Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act. She said Gorsuch counseled the president to issue a signing statement to go along with the law to help inoculate against the potential of having the administration criticized in the future for not making changes to interrogation policies. In that email, Gorsuch appears to advocate for torture practices like waterboarding, she said.

Gorsuch said he would like to see the email again. Feinstein had a member of her staff deliver him a copy of the document.

"My loose recollection of something that happened 11 or 12 years ago is there were individuals in the vice president's office that wanted an aggressive signing statement along the lines you described, and others in the State Department wanted a gentler statement," he said. "My recollection is I was in the latter camp."

While Gorsuch said he needed to review the document, he denied that he was condoning waterboarding.

“I would never had counseled anyone that they can disobey the law,” he said.

 

Gorsuch: Bush v. Gore should serve as a precedent
10:24 a.m.

Gorsuch says judges should respect precedent — even controversial cases such as the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore in which justices halted the Florida recount, handing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush.

“I know some people in this room have opinions on that I’m sure, senator,” Gorsuch told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord MORE (R-Iowa) when asked about the decision.

“But as a judge, it’s a precedent of the United States Supreme Court and it deserves the same respect as other precedents of the United States Supreme Court when you’re coming to it as a judge and it has to be analyzed under the law of precedents,” he added.

The answer surprised some observers in the hearing room because the high court declared at the time of its ruling that it should not be used as a precedent in the future.

“Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities,” the justices wrote in their controversial 5-4 decision.

Grassley also asked him about Roe v. Wade, which established abortion rights, and Griswold v. Connecticut, which gave married couples the right to use contraceptives in the privacy of their own home.

Gorsuch explained those cases are court precedents that must be given due weight.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) later pressed Gorsuch on his views of precedent, asking if he believes Roe v. Wade is a "super precedent."

"It has been reaffirmed many times, I can say that," Gorsuch said, dodging her attempt to get him to give the controversial case super-precedent status.

 

Gorsuch: I don’t believe in litmus tests for judges
9:57 a.m.

Gorsuch told members of the Judiciary Committee that no one on the Trump campaign or transition team tried to extract any promises from him in exchange for putting his name on the shortlist and later nominating him to serve on the Supreme Court.

“I don’t believe in litmus tests for judges. I’ve written about that years ago. I wasn’t about to become party to such a thing,” he said.

“I’m here to report that you should be reassured. There was no one in the process, from the time I was contacted to the expression of interest for a potential interview to the time I was nominated — no one in that process, Mr. Chairman, asked me for any commitments or promises about how I’d rule in any kind of case,” he testified.

The answer satisfied Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel's chairman, who replied, “That’s the way it should be.”

Grassley advised the nominee that it would be similarly inappropriate for Democratic senators to attempt to extract promises from Gorsuch on how he would rule.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (N.Y.) declared on Twitter, however, that his colleagues are well within their rights to demand to know how Gorsuch will rule on certain cases.

Gorsuch said he has not made any promises on how he will rule in future cases.

“I have offered no promises on how I’d rule in any case to any one and I don’t think it’s appropriate for a judge to do so, no matter who is doing the asking,” he told Grassley.

He went on to explain that a good judge relies on precedent when deciding cases.

“We don’t go reinvent the wheel every day,” he said.

 

Gorsuch: Judges would make rotten legislators
9:53 a.m.

Faced with a panel of lawmakers, Gorsuch joked that judges would make rotten legislators. 

"We're tenured," he said. "You can't get rid of us." 

In answering a question from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on his views on the separation of powers, Gorsuch noted only a few judges on a court decide an issue. 

"It'd be a pretty poor way to run a democracy," he said. "At the same time, with respect, legislators might not make good judges because they are answerable to the people." 

 

Gorsuch: I’d have no problem ruling against Trump
9:46 am 

Gorsuch said he would have no difficulty ruling against Trump, who has a track record of blasting judges who decide against him, answering the first question of his confirmation hearing.

"I have no difficulty ruling against any party," Gorsuch said when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel’s chairman, asked if he would have any problem going against the person who appointed him.

"I’m heartened by the support I have received from people who recognize there is no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democrat judge. We just have judges in this country," he said.  

Later on in his answer, he explained that “this is a point of civics that I do think maybe is lost today, how valuable the separation of powers is.”

 

Gorsuch facing 10 hours of questioning
9:35 am

The second day of confirmation hearings began at 9:35 a.m. — five minutes late — as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) waited for ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to arrive.

Grassley said he expects 10 hours of questioning, with each member of the 20-member panel receiving 30 minutes of time. He noted he wants to finish before his usual bedtime of 9 p.m.