In anticipation of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing next week, PFAW hosted a telebriefing for members that featured Senator Jeff Merkley as well our own Marge Baker and Elliot Mincberg. Sen. Merkley and our staff previewed what we’re likely going to see during the hearings, and discussed some of the real people impacted by Judge Gorsuch’s decisions.
Senator Merkley kicked off the call by observing that “we have a situation we have never faced before.” He referred to the Republican blockade of President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland and the subsequent nomination of Gorsuch by President Trump as a “form of court packing.” Merkley warned of the damage that Gorsuch’s confirmation would do to the court, turning it into a conservative political body rather than part of an independent judiciary.
When asked by a PFAW member about whether there were Republican senators to work with against the nomination, Merkley lamented that the influence of secret money and voter suppression had changed Congress dramatically, leaving them without Republican allies in this fight. He also stressed the importance of maintaining the 60-vote standard for any Supreme Court justice, noting that “it is very important for an individual to come from the mainstream, and Judge Gorsuch is outside of the mainstream.”
Next, Senior Fellow Elliot Mincberg walked our members through the experiences of some of the real people who have been harmed by Judge Gorsuch’s rulings. He noted the pattern Gorsuch made of ruling for corporate interests: “Ten out of 11 dissenting opinions he wrote that dealt with corporations, workers, or consumers were against the little guy.” He went on to detail the cases of a trucker who nearly froze to death on the job and a worker who died due to a lack of training. Gorsuch wrote dissents in support of the corporations in both of these cases. These cases and others are discussed in our recent ‘Real People, Real Lives’ report.
In discussing the themes of the upcoming hearings, Executive Vice President Marge Baker put a spotlight on Gorsuch’s record of ruling against the interests of everyday people and the issue that he would not be an independent justice on the Court. She lifted up the case of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert, in which Gorsuch deferred to the Utah governor’s explanation for why he wanted to defund Planned Parenthood that was not supported by the record in the case. Responding to a question about what PFAW members can do in the days ahead, Baker emphasized the need to reach out to all senators, and said that even if a senator supports Gorsuch, people can raise concerns about preserving the 60-vote standard and draw parallels between the people harmed by Gorsuch and the interests of the senator’s constituents.
As we gear up for the hearings, Baker reminded us of what Senator Charles Schumer has repeatedly said: if they can’t get the votes, don’t change the rules, change the nominee.
You can hear the full recording here: