Neil Gorsuch under fire from Democrats in second day of Senate questioning
Supreme court nominee refused to talk about key issues but said no one is looking to return to horse and buggy days when asked about abortion
Assured of support from majority Republicans, supreme court nominee Neil Gorsuch was wrapping up two days of Senate questioning Wednesday to glowing GOP reviews but complaints from frustrated Democrats that he concealed his views from the American public.
Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, refused repeated attempts to get him to talk about key legal and political issues of the day. But he did tell Senator Dianne Feinstein, who worried that Gorsuch would vote to restrict abortion, that no one is looking to return us to horse and buggy days.
The supreme court threw one surprise Gorsuchs way when it ruled unanimously Wednesday in a case involving learning-disabled students, overturning a standard for special education that Gorsuch had endorsed in an earlier case on the same topic.
The decision prompted sharp questioning from committee Democrats.
Why in your early decision did you want to lower the bar so low? asked Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois.
Gorsuch said he was bound by an even earlier decision on the 10th US circuit court of appeals and said that any implication that he was against autistic children was heartbreaking.
I was wrong, senator, I was wrong because I was bound by circuit court precedent, Gorsuch said. And Im sorry.
Later on Wednesday, Durbin elicited another apology from Gorsuch. The senator asked about an email Gorsuch sent while working at the justice department in which he criticized lawyers at big firms who were representing Guantnamo detainees. The email, Gorsuch said, was not my finest hour.
Aside from a few uncomfortable moments, Gorsuch generally maintained the mix of earnest talk about respect for prior court decisions, a pledge for absolute independence when you put on the robe, you open your mind and folksy humor that led to lighthearted exchanges with Republicans about his passion for fly fishing.
Whats the largest trout you ever caught? Senator Jeff Flake asked late in Tuesdays session. Oh, now were talking, Gorsuch shot back.