By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was an intellectual giant and a revered defender of the Constitution and the limited role of the judiciary in our Republic. His contributions to the court and to broader judicial philosophy will endure for years. Now, we’ll keep our word to the American people to consider a nominee by the new president.
Early on, my Judiciary Committee colleagues and I adopted the same standard set by Democratic senators, pledging not to submit a nominee to the “cauldron” of election year politics that then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden said wouldn’t be “fair to the president, to the nominee, or to the Senate itself.” At the same time, I pledged that, regardless of the outcome of the election, if I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we would consider the nomination made by the newly-elected president, whoever that may be. I maintained this position even when many believed Hillary Clinton would be our next president.
The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat is the product of the most transparent and democratic judicial nomination process in recent history. On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump’s list of 21 potential nominees for the vacancy provided rare insight into who could be the next justice in a Trump presidency. The vacancy was on the minds of many voters as they elected Trump to be our next president. According to the Pew Research Center, 65% of voters considered the vacancy very important as they went to the polls.
Prior to the president’s announcement, the minority leader called on him to nominate a “mainstream” candidate. There can be no serious debate that Judge Gorsuch meets that standard. He’s been praised by legal experts across the political spectrum as a mainstream jurist who applies the law without regard to person, politics or his own preferences. President Obama’s former solicitor general called him “one of the most thoughtful and brilliant judges to have served our nation over the last century.” That’s high praise. In 2006 Judge Gorsuch sailed through the Senate with unanimous approval. Thirty-one sitting senators were in the Senate when Gorsuch was confirmed, including 12 Democrats. Nonetheless, we have promised a rigorous and thorough review of this nominee, and that’s what we’ll do.
The committee will follow the established confirmation timeline for modern Supreme Court vacancies, with a hearing roughly six weeks after the initial nomination. That is more than sufficient time for senators to review his record.
At the hearing, senators will have adequate time to question the nominee about his qualifications. We’ll also hear from outside legal experts about the nominee’s record at the multi-day hearing. And senators will have an opportunity to submit follow-up written questions. After that, I expect the committee will vote on the nominee before the full Senate considers his nomination.
This is the process used for years by both Republican and Democratic senators for nominees made by presidents of both parties.
The Republican majority is keeping its promise to move forward with the nomination process.
Unfortunately, some Senate Democrats signaled plans to block any nomination made by the newly-elected president even before he announced his nomination. They’re doing so after criticizing Republicans for taking a principled position about a lame duck president that was advocated by Democrats for decades.
Take for example the minority leader, the Senate’s top Democrat. In 2007 he argued the Senate shouldn’t confirm any of Republican President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, should a vacancy arise during the last 18 months of his presidency. But last year, with a Democrat in the White House, he lambasted Senate Republicans for following the more moderate Biden Rule for vacancies arising in an election year. Now, as we prepare to consider Trump’s nominee, the minority leader has made clear he is prepared to leave the seat open indefinitely. Republicans didn’t hold up either of the first term Supreme Court nominees of Presidents Obama and Clinton. There shouldn’t be one set of rules for Republicans and another set of rules for Democrats. We won’t abide by such a double standard.
Instead, we will keep our word and we will fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court.