The Issues

Both MN senators are on the panel questioning the Supreme Court nominee

Hearings for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, are underway on Capitol Hill and both of Minnesota’s senators will be asking him questions this week.

Gorsuch’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee started on Monday when he and all the senators on the panel got to make opening statements. CSPAN has a video of the whole hearing.

For the next two days the committee’s members, which include Minnesota Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, will have some time to question Gorsuch. Then on Thursday other witnesses will testify about him.

Later – probably in the next week or two – the committee’s 20 members (11 Republicans and nine Democrats) will vote on whether to recommend that Gorsuch be appointed to the court. But that’s just a recommendation; the final decision will be up to the whole Senate.

Franken says he’s skeptcial

Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on a U.S. Court of Appeals based in Colorado. President Trump nominated him at the end of January to take the Supreme Court seat that was vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death more than a year ago.

In his own opening statement, Gorsuch spent time thanking many of the people who have influenced his law career.

When it was Franken’s turn to speak, he told Gorsuch: “Having reviewed your decisions and your writings, I have concerns. In the days ahead, I will use these hearings as an opportunity to better understand your views and perhaps to alleviate those concerns.”

In a statement, Franken spelled out those concerns a little – saying he’s skeptical about Gorsuch and feels he would guarantee that the Supreme Court will favor powerful interests over the rights of average Americans. Franken also said he’s concerned Gorsuch will put forth an ideology that backs big business over individual Americans.

Klobuchar: the founders never considered cybercrime

As the Washington Post has explained, Gorsuch is a judge who focuses not on how courts have interpreted laws over time – but on what the people who wrote the law meant. Or what America’s founders meant when they wrote the Constitution. It’s a judicial philosophy called originalism.

Already on Monday some Democrats were raising questions about that approach, including Klobuchar (who speaks 1 hour and 52 minutes into this video). She told Gorsuch:

“Many of the issues we face are ones that the country’s founders never considered, and never could have considered because of all the social change and innovation that has taken place. We are no longer dealing with plows, bonnets, and colony debts in England but instead driverless cars, drones, and cybercrime.”

There may be a certain degree of cat-and-mouse during the next couple of days of hearings. Klobuchar told the Star Tribune Supreme Court nominees usually don’t like to tip their hand on their views about Constitutional issues, “So you try to ask questions in a way where you can get the most interesting response in terms of what their philosophy is,” she said.

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