Live coverage: Senate panel to vote on Supreme Court nominee

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. Monday in the Hart Senate Office Building to vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch is expected to pass out of the committee on a party-line vote with most if not all Democrats voting against him.

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Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip MORE (Del.), a Democrat viewed as more pro-business than many in his conference, has not said how he will vote. 

Republicans have an 11-to-9 advantage on the committee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to schedule a vote on the floor Thursday to end a Democratic filibuster of the nominee. The final confirmation vote is expected Friday.  

Committee adjourns  
2:35 p.m. 

Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyScandal in Puerto Rico threatens chance at statehood Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Democrat: Treasury 'acknowledged the unprecedented process' in Trump tax return rejection MORE (R-Iowa) adjourned the committee after members voted 19-1 to approve Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general and 11-9 to approve Rachel Brand as associate attorney general.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was the only member to vote against Rosenstein. 

Committee votes 11-9 to approve Gorsuch 
2:31 p.m.

The committee voted 11-9 along party lines to move Gorsuch's nomination to the Senate floor.

Grassley announced the nomination will be reported out of committee.

Cruz: Gorsuch will push back against Trump
2:06 p.m.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHow to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Cruz calls for 'every penny' of El Chapo's criminal enterprise to be used for Trump's wall after sentencing Conservatives defend Chris Pratt for wearing 'Don't Tread On Me' T-shirt MORE (R-Texas) argued on Monday that Gorsuch will stand up to the Trump administration if officials overstep the boundaries of the law.

"I'll tell you any constitutionalist who is following the law is by definition willing to stand up to a president of either party, including the president who appointed him," Cruz said during a Judiciary Committee meeting on Monday.

Democrats have fretted that Gorsuch wouldn't be willing to buck the president and would let politics influence his decisions on Supreme Court cases.

Cruz said on Monday that the Republicans are "not confirming a political player."

"We are not confirming someone who will simply vote with our team on a given issue," the Texas Republican said, noting he wants Gorsuch to "without hesitation side with the law over government power."

Democrats have called on Gorsuch to publicly denounce President Trump's penchant for personally attacking judges who rule against him after Gorsuch told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in a closed-door meeting that Trump's comments were "disheartening."

Cruz: Opposition to Gorsuch organized by 'left-wing billionaires'
2 p.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Democrats are filibustering Gorsuch despite his credentials because major liberal donors have poured money into stirring up the liberal base tooppose President Trump.

Cruz noted that in 2006, the Senate confirmed Gorsuch by voice vote to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

He claimed the politics have changed because of money being spent by left-wing groups.  

“It is indeed because of dark money from corporations that we are seeing this Democratic filibuster,” Cruz argued.

“The politics are that in the Democratic Party, there are outside groups that are corporations ... that are spending vast sums of money to organize left-wing activists to put political pressure on Senate Democrats," he said. 

Cruz said a Democratic colleague told him in a recent moment of candor that many in the Democratic caucus are worried about getting primary election challengers.

“You’ve got to understand, all of us on the Democratic side are afraid of being primaried from the left,” Cruz recalled the Democrat saying. 

While Democrats have complained about money that conservative groups have spent to promote Gorsuch, he said liberal donors are having as much of an impact on the debate.

“It is the action of a handful of left-wing billionaires spending money to organize activists on the ground that are in effect holding Democratic senators hostage,” he said.  

 
Coons becomes 41st Democrat to back filibuster
1:33 p.m. 
 
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) became the 41st senator to publicly back a filibuster of Gorsuch's nomination, giving Democrats the votes to at least temporarily block the president's pick. 
 
"I am not ready to end debate on this issue," he said during the Judiciary Committee meeting. "So I will be voting against cloture unless we are able as a body to finally sit down and find a way to avoid the nuclear option." 
 
Coons added that he will also vote against Gorsuch's nomination during the committee meeting on Monday, but he didn't specifically address a final confirmation vote expected before the full Senate on Friday. 
 
Coons's announcement effectively ends Gorsuch's ability to get the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Democratic filibuster. 
 
With Gorsuch unable to win over the eight Democrats or Independents needed to overcome the initial hurdle of the filibuster, Republicans are expected employ the "nuclear option," changing Senate rules to block filibusters on Supreme Court nominees and allowing Gorsuch to pass with a simple majority.
 
Coons, who has lamented using the nuclear option, said senators are at a "historic moment" as they barrel toward a rules change. 
 
"Let's be frank. The majority leader has assured us he will abolish the 60 vote [threshold]," he added.
 
Republicans haven't specifically said they will change the rules if Democrats block Gorsuch but have hinted they believe it is their only option. 

“If they're going to oppose Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, they will never vote and never support a nominee of this president," John CornynJohn CornynGOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Hillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said during the Judiciary Committee meeting.  

Grassley skips lunch break as markup enters third hour
12:22 p.m. 

Grassley tried to hold an informal vote on whether the committee should take a break for lunch as the markup has continued for more than two hours. 

A small group of Democrats led by Coons wanted to recess between 1 and 1:30 p.m. but were overruled by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage Protect American patients and innovation from a harmful MedTech Tax increase MORE (D-Minn.) and others who wanted to “plow through” their statements before voting on Gorsuch.

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTrump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Al Franken: It's time to start taking Trump 'literally' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs MORE (D-Minn.), a former comedian, asked if the majority would be willing to cater the rest of the proceedings, prompting laughter in the hearing room. 

Graham: Senate rule change appears inevitable
11:28 a.m.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE (R-S.C.) said on Monday that lawmakers appear unlikely to avoid the "nuclear option" when they vote later this week on Gorsuch.

"If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we're going to have to," Graham said during the Senate Judiciary Committee's meeting on Gorsuch's nomination. "I hate that. I really, really do." 

Gorsuch appears unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to break a Democratic filibuster of his nomination. Only three Democratic senators have said they will support him.

Graham said that there is nothing wrong with Gorsuch despite the growing Democratic opposition.

"There's a lot wrong with modern politics in the Senate," he added.

Graham also blasted Democrats for complaining about the treatment of Merrick Garland, whom former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE nominated in early 2016 to fill the court's vacancy. Republicans refused to consider him, saying the next president should fill the spot instead.

The nuclear option is an extreme parliamentary tactic that would eliminate senators' ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. Democrats used it against Republicans in 2013 to end filibusters of most judicial nominees, except for the high court.

"You had a chance to grab power and you grabbed it. So when you complain about Garland, it's the arsonist complaining about the fire," he said.

He added that Democratic objections are "laughable."

"If the roll was reversed, I don't believe one minute you would give the accommodation you are asking [for Garland]."

Graham was part of a bipartisan "Gang of 14" that in 2005 reached a deal to avoid eliminating the filibuster, but the South Carolina Republican has downplayed the chances of finding a similar deal before this week's Senate vote.

"My conscious is clear about a lot of things," he said. "[But] I think the damage done to the Senate is going to be real."

Leahy: GOP treatment of Obama's nominee a 'shameful stain'
11:21 a.m.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Democrats grill USDA official on relocation plans that gut research staff Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens MORE (D-Vt.) blasted Republicans for refusing to give Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, a hearing or a vote.

"[It was] a shameful stain on the proud history of the committee," Leahy, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said during the committee's hearing to vote on Gorsuch.

Leahy blasted Republicans, arguing that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thought Gorsuch was "entitled" to be confirmed because Republicans were in control of the Senate.

He also said Gorsuch "stonewalled" committee members' questions and that his approach to the confirmation hearing was "patronizing."

Leahy became the second Democratic member of the committee to announce his opposition to Gorsuch on Monday.

Leahy will oppose Gorsuch
11:10 a.m.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced he will vote against Gorsuch's nomination because of what he characterized as his evasive answers during his confirmation hearings.

“I cannot recall a nominee refusing to answer such basic questions about the principles underlying our Constitution,” said Leahy, a former chairman of the panel, who presided over the confirmations of President Obama’s two nominees to the Supreme Court. 

He noted that Gorsuch initially declined to say whether he agreed with the court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education desegregating schools.

“Is there anybody on this committee or elsewhere who would disagree with Brown v. Board Education?” he said. 

He also noted that Gorsuch refused to say that a woman’s right to an abortion established in 1973 by Roe v. Wade was settled law.

“Unless we were talking about fishing or basketball, Judge Gorsuch stonewalled,” Leahy said, referring to some of the soft-ball topics his GOP colleagues pitched during confirmation hearings.

He panned Gorsuch’s answers, which many Democrats thought were evasive, as a “blight on the confirmation process.”

He argued that despite Gorsuch’s claims before the committee that he read the law as neutrally as an impartial judge, his rulings displayed “a partisan agenda.”

“I cannot vote solely to protect an institution when the rights of hardworking Americans are at risk,” he said. “I will not, I cannot support advancing this nomination.”

Feinstein announces she'll vote against Gorsuch
10:45 a.m. 

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (Calif.) told colleagues she would vote against Gorsuch. 

“Unfortunately, based on Judge Gorsuch’s record at the Department of Justice, his tenure on the bench, his appearance before the Senate and his written questions for the record, I cannot support this nomination,” she said.

A spokesman also said that she will support a Democratic filibuster. 
 
She cited two specific opinions from Gorsuch as reasons for her opposition.
 
She pointed to his opinion in Transam Trucking v. Administrative Review Board in which Gorsuch sided with an employer who fired a trucker who disobeyed an order to stay with a disabled trailer in subzero weather conditions.

She also criticized his narrow reading of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in Endrew F. v. Douglas County, a 10th Circuit ruling the Supreme Court effectively vacated on March 22.

Feinstein argued that in these decisions Gorsuch “went out of his way to apply his own view of the law,” echoing other Democrats who have faulted the nominee for what they claim was “selective activism.”

Feinstein said Gorsuch’s answers during confirmation hearings were “so deluded with ambiguity” that he declined to express his views on whether longstanding landmark cases were justly decided, such as Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 decision that desegregated schools. 

She also raised concern about Gorsuch’s work at the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush to justify the harsh treatment of terrorist detainees.

She said email evidence shows that he knew of “enhanced interrogation techniques” used during the Bush years and played a role in codifying their use.

She noted that when she asked Gorsuch how a signing statement could inoculate the Bush administration from not making changes to interrogation tactics after Congress passed law to prevent the physical abuse of prisoners, Gorsuch replied he was acting as a lawyer at the direction of his client.

That answer did not sit well with Feinstein. 

Grassley knocks liberal outside groups
10:31 a.m.

Grassley took a swing at liberal outside groups that are pressuring Democrats to block Gorsuch's nomination during his opening remarks.

"Everyone in this room knows that liberal and progressive groups have been pressuring the Minority Leader [Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE] to find a reason—any reason to filibuster this nominee," the Iowa Republican said.

Grassley also hit progressives for threatening to primary Democrats if they support Gorsuch.

"And of course all last year, the groups on the left coordinated to attack me. They followed me all over Iowa, ran commercials, put up billboards and even had a plane pulling a banner fly over special events," he said.

Democrats criticized Grassley for months last year when he refused to give a hearing or committee vote to President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Democrats have also blasted conservative outside group who are spending millions to help confirm Gorsuch.

But Grassley said on Monday that he didn't remember Democrats complaining last year when liberal outside groups targeted him.

Grassley added that he is fine with being targeted over the Garland fight, calling it "democracy at work."

"I'm one half to the process," he said. "You're the other half."

Grassley cites Rachel Maddow to defend Gorsuch
10:16 a.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in a rare occurrence, is citing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to make the case that Gorsuch deserves to advance to the Senate floor.

Grassley noted the liberal television personality characterized Gorsuch as a “fairly mainstream choice that you might expect from any Republican president."

Grassley also rebutted criticism that Gorsuch is not a judge who favors the “little guy.”

He noted that Democrats praised Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama nominee, for putting her honest reading of the law ahead of “sympathetic litigants.” 

“A good judge listens to the arguments regardless of who makes them,” Grassley said.

Democrats criticized Gorsuch for writing an opinion that sided with a company that fired a truck driver for leaving his cargo after waiting for hours in a broken-down vehicle in sub-zero weather conditions. 

Grassley gavels in the session
10:08 a.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has gaveled the panel into session.

The members are sitting at a low table draped in black cloth in the well of the hearing room, surrounded by the raised dais, as is customary for markups.

Some lawmakers have yet to arrive, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations MORE (D-Ill.) and Coons.

Grassley says he will allow every member of the committee to speak on Gorsuch before the vote.