Supreme Court pick in line for a grilling

Mr Gorsuch is likely to be confirmed as a US Supreme Court justice by the Senate, which has a Republican majority. If approved, he would restore a 5-4 conservative majority in the court.
Mr Gorsuch is likely to be confirmed as a US Supreme Court justice by the Senate, which has a Republican majority. If approved, he would restore a 5-4 conservative majority in the court.

WASHINGTON • US Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch can expect some tough scrutiny at his Senate confirmation hearing.

With his conservative credentials, the appeals court judge from Colorado is a heavy favourite to win confirmation to a lifetime seat on the nation's highest court, given the Republicans' control in the Senate.

Still, the hearing, which began yesterday, will allow Democratic senators to grill him on whether he is sufficiently independent from President Donald Trump, who has criticised judges for ruling against his bid to restrict travel from Muslim-majority countries.

The senators will also want to press the 49-year-old judge on what they view as his history of siding with corporations in his 10 years on the Bench.

In one case, truck driver Alphonse Maddin was fired for leaving his trailer on the side of a road after waiting several hours in sub-zero temperatures for a repair truck. In a dissenting opinion, Mr Gorsuch said the trucking company did not violate federal law.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a plain-spoken Iowan, will chair the proceedings, which could last as long as four days. The senators will question the nominee today. The hearing starts with all 20 senators on the committee having their say before Mr Gorsuch gets to speak.

His opening statement would be his only chance to set the tone and let people see a bit more of who he is. More importantly, it could help beat back any attack that Democratic senators might mount.

Mr Gorsuch was nominated in January to fill the seat left vacant when conservative justice Antonin Scalia died in February last year. If approved by the Senate, Mr Gorsuch would restore a narrow 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

For months last year, Republicans refused to consider then Democratic President Barack Obama's pick to fill the seat. The unusual Republican tactic blocked a leftward shift, but Justice Scalia's death left the court divided equally 4-4 between conservatives and liberals.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Supreme Court pick in line for a grilling'. Print Edition | Subscribe