Del Sen. Coons to block Gorsuch for Supreme Court

Listen
 Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch, left, meets with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday in February. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch, left, meets with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday in February. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

U.S. Senator Chris Coons, D-Delaware, joins a growing list of Democrats planning to vote against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. 

Sen. Coons announced his opposition to President Trump’s Supreme Court pick on Monday afternoon during a Senate Judiciary Committee speech that was part lament for how the confirmation process has turned into such a partisan fight. 

“I think it is unfortunate if we lead the public to view members of the Supreme Court simply as red pegs or blue pegs deciding cases along partisan lines,” Coons said. “There are many, many cases that are decided not along partisan lines, but along lines that are narrowly legal.”

Democratic opposition to Gorsuch extends beyond the nominee himself and goes back to the lack of hearings for then-President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. “Democrats including me are still furious at the way Judge Merrick Garland was treated last year,” Coons said. But despite that anger, Coons said he kept an open mind about Gorsuch. “After reviewing Judge Gorsuch’s record…and getting feedback from literally thousands of Delawareans, I have decided that I will not support Judge Gorsuch’s nomination in the Judiciary Committee.”

Coons’ vote will also help Democrats filibuster the Gorsuch confirmation vote on the Senate floor. That filibuster will likely be broken by a change in the Senate rules which would override the filibuster with a simple majority vote and send the nomination to a vote. “The Senate traditions are going to change over this man,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. “I find it ironic that and sad that we’re going to change the rules over somebody who has lived such a good life, who has been such a good judge for such a long time. It says more about the Senate than it does about Judge Gorsuch.”

Coons agreed with Graham’s lament about Senate traditions changing, but not so much about Gorsuch’s qualifications. While he did call Gorsuch a “talented and “experienced jurist,” Coons also questioned the way Gorsuch ruled in certain cases, especially cases involving the rights of a woman to privacy about her medical decisions and the rights of same sex couples. Coons said Gorsuch’s record shows a tendency to “searchingly explore” broader issues beyond what is necessary to decide a case. He added that his case history demonstrates a willingness to revisit long settled precedent and actively promote changes to the law.

“The traditions and principals that have defined the Senate are crumbling and we are poised to hasten that destruction this week,” Coons said of the Republican’s plan to use the so-called nuclear option to force a vote on Gorsuch. “I hope and pray that we can yet find a way together to find a solution.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.