Q: What is the status of filling the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court?
A: The Constitution gives the U.S. Senate "advise and consent" authorityfor nominations made by the president to the federal bench. It is a vital element of our republic's fundamental separation of powers that empowers each branch to keep check on the othersand thwart overreach by any one branch of government. Last year, the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia opened a seat on the Supreme Court in a presidential election year. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I agreed with the Senate majority to uphold the standard previously set by our Democratic colleagues. We made the decision to hold off on nomination proceedings during the "cauldron" of election year politics that the former Vice President and then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden said wouldn't be "fair to the president or to the nominee." To that end, it was only fair to allow the electorate to weigh in on the nomination at the ballot box on Election Day. I committed to advance Supreme Court nomination proceedings after the newly elected president was inaugurated in January, no matter which candidate won the election. That's an important distinction that gets lost in the politically charged atmosphere that has stalled the president's Cabinet nominations and led to highly publicized protests by those who refuse to accept the results of the election. Nonetheless, I'm staying true to my word and moving forward with the nomination. Notably, about 65 percent of voters considered the Supreme Court vacancy a critical factor for voting according to the Pew Research Center. What's more, in an unprecedented signal of electoral transparency, candidate Donald Trump gave voters an informed perspective by releasing a list of 21 individuals he would consider for the vacancy if elected. And on Jan. 31, President Trump did just that by nominating Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to serve as Associate Justice on thenation's highest court. Now, the Judiciary Committeeis following an established confirmation timeline, allowing about six weeks for senators to conduct a thorough review ofthe nominee's record. Already, Judge Gorsuch has met one-on-one with dozens of senators. He's also completed a 68-page written questionnaireand produced thousands of pages of documents that flesh out his legal background, biography, and key legal cases for senators to examine. Judge Gorsuch has a lengthy record of distinguished service on the bench, where he has participated in about 2,700 cases and written 240 opinions, including 175 in the majority. Judge Gorsuch was approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 2006 to serve on the Denver-based United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. In fact, 31 current senators were in the Senate for his confirmation vote.
Q: When will the congressional nomination hearings begin?
A: In bipartisan consultation with the Ranking Member, I've scheduled hearings for Judge Gorsuch by the Senate Judiciary Committee to begin on March 20. The hearings for Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan began 48 and 49 days, respectively, following the announcement of their nominations by President Obama. This timeline will put Judge Gorsuch at 48 days following the announcement of his nomination. First, the 20-member committee will begin with opening statements from senators who serve on the Judiciary Committee, as well as remarks from the nominee himself. We most likely will begin questioning Judge Gorsuch the following day. Outside legal experts willalso testify. I expect the hearings will last three to four days. I look forward to chairing the committee's review of Judge Gorsuch. So far, he has earned broad acclaim as a mainstream and independent jurist who will apply the law as written. His record reflects a proper view of a judge's role, that is, to refrain from legislating policies or injecting moral convictions from the bench. From what I've learned so far,he wears the robes of justice with distinction and impartiality. In our 240-year history, 112 Justices have served on the nation's high court, issuing rulings that have extraordinary impact in the daily lives and individual freedoms of citizens to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Keeping this in mind, the U.S. Senate has a duty to carefully and rigorously examine the lifetime appointment of this nominee to ensure the 113th Justice has the qualifications and temperament to uphold the rights enshrined in the Constitution and to secure the blessings of liberty, freedom and justice for all.