WASHINGTON, D.C. — Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch faced an often intense first day of questioning by the Senate Panel on Tuesday, but stuck to his commitment to apply the law as written, whether he agreed with it or not.
“We have a Constitution and it does guarantee free exercise and it also guarantees equal protection of the laws and a whole lot else,” Gorsuch said in reply to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) during his second day of confirmation hearings.
“The Supreme Court, in (Zubayadah), said that due process rights extend even to undocumented persons in this country. I will apply the law. I will apply the law faithfully and fearlessly.
Anyone, any law is going to get a fair and square deal with me,” Gorsuch said.
Grilled on his loyalties to Trump, who nominated the federal appellate judge from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch said Trump has never pressured him to rule certain ways on matters such as abortion in exchange for his nomination. “I would have walked out the door,” said Gorsuch. “That’s not what judges do. They don’t do it at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue and they shouldn’t do it at this end either.”
During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to nominate pro-life judges to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Asked by Leahy whether he thinks the President has the right to authorize waterboarding or methods of torture if it violates law, Gorsuch cited a list of precedents that ban such actions.
“We have a convention against torture and implementing legislation which bans torture,” he said. “We have the Detainee Treatment Act, which we talked about earlier, which bans cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. We also have an 8th amendment.”
When pushed for a more specific answer, Gorsuch responded,
“Senator, no man is above the law.”
When pressed on the issue of abortion, Gorsuch refused to say how he would vote should the issue be presented to him if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Do you view Roe as having super precedent?” asked U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA).
Gorsuch responded: “It has been reaffirmed many times. I can say that.”
When asked by Leahy how he would rule in regard to Trump’s highly contested travel ban, which has been shot down on two occasions by lower level courts, Gorsuch said answering such a question would be improper.
“I’m not going to say anything here that would give anybody any idea how I’d rule in any case like that that could come before the Supreme Court or my court at the 10th Circuit,” Gorsuch said. “It would be grossly improper of a judge to do that. It would be a violation of the separation of powers and judicial independence if someone sitting at this table, in order to get confirmed, had to make promises or commitments about how they’d rule in a case that’s currently pending and likely to make its way to the Supreme Court.”
Republicans hold 52 seats of the 100-member chamber, and may require the support of eight Democratic votes to confirm Gorsuch if they decide not to utilize the “nuclear option” which would require only a majority vote.
A majority of Democrats say they will contest Gorsuch in response to Republicans refusal to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated for the seat left vacant after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.