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Republicans Aim To Have Neil Gorsuch Confirmed By Early April


Judge Neil Gorsuch will face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee today. It is day two of his confirmation hearings to become the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. In Gorsuch's remarks yesterday, opening remarks, he explained how he understands the work of a judge.


NEIL GORSUCH: These days, we sometimes hear judges cynically described as politicians in robes, seeking to enforce their own politics rather than striving to apply the law impartially. But if I had thought that were true I'd hang up the robe. The truth is I just don't think that's what a life in the law is about.

MARTIN: Democrats on the committee did not appear persuaded. They focused their opening remarks on the fact that Republicans never gave President Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a hearing. Republicans are hoping to confirm Gorsuch by early April. Senator Chuck Grassley is leading that effort. He chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he joins us on the line this morning. Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

CHUCK GRASSLEY: Rachel, very happy to be with you.

MARTIN: You have said that Neil Gorsuch, if confirmed, would preserve our, quote, "constitutional order." How so?

GRASSLEY: Well, basically, we've got executive, judicial, legislative branches. And one should be a check on the other, but one shouldn't be doing the other duties. So he sees - he sees his job as looking at the laws and the facts of a case and being dispassionate. And I think if you would take a look at some of his 154 decisions he's written and 65 decisions that he's helped write or be a part of, you'd find out that he pretty aggressively follows it.

You'll hear today, probably from Democrats and maybe even some Republicans, that maybe he takes the side of corporations and, as the Democrats would say, leave out the little guy. I think he's agnostic to those points of view, that he - if you read his decisions, you will find that sometimes he's - takes maybe the business point of view and the other times he takes the little guy's point of view. And that's what a judge is supposed to do.

MARTIN: Under present rules, Gorsuch needs 60 votes to be confirmed. So you need some Democrats. Senator Dianne Feinstein said yesterday that, quote, "our job is to determine whether Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable, mainstream conservative or not." What is it that you see in his record as a federal appeals court judge that could bring Democrats on board?

GRASSLEY: I think how he approaches the law and leaving his own personal views out. But I don't accept the premise of what you said, that he's got to have 60 votes. He would have to have 60 votes if there is a filibuster. And some people have threatened to venture forth with a filibuster, but I don't ensure that that's going to be the case. And we want to assume that it's going to take 51 votes to get him through. And we aren't even going to spend any time talking about the necessity of 60. If it arrives at that, we would hope that we would be able to deliver them. And we will try to do that. But I think that at the end of two days when he's done answering these questions, there's a lot of Democrats who are going to have a difficult time justifying a vote against him.

MARTIN: Several lawmakers again raised the fact that the Judiciary Committee blocked President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, from even having a hearing. Earlier this morning on our program, your Democratic Judiciary Committee colleague, Senator Richard Blumenthal, had this to say. Let's listen.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: There is no question that many of us continue to be very angry about the constitutional dereliction and obstruction in the Republican leadership's action preventing a vote, even a hearing, on Merrick Garland, who was eminently qualified. And in fact, Judge Gorsuch, I think, would concede that he was eminently qualified.

MARTIN: So Merrick Garland's nomination, the lack of a hearing for him, is clearly looming over Democrats and standing in the way for some of their support of Neil Gorsuch. How do you respond to those Democrats?

GRASSLEY: Well, one thing - it would be testimony yesterday by Neal Katyal - he was solicitor general under Obama - who has come out in favor of him as one thing. I think Senator Bennet, a Democrat, had good things to say about him yesterday. But I would go back to the the words of obstruction and - that Senator Blumenthal said and say that - was it not obstruction when Biden said 30 years ago at the end of H.W. Bush's presidency if there's a vacancy it ought to go over to the new president? And not only that, but a long time before the election, when we assumed that Hillary was - Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president States, I was asked, am I going to hold it up for another four years if she's president of the United States? I said no.

MARTIN: Before I let you go, I do want to ask about a different but related topic. The director of the FBI, James Comey, yesterday made a rather extraordinary statement. He was on Capitol Hill testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. And he publicly announced that the bureau is investigating possible cooperation between members of the Trump campaign and Russia. What questions still linger for you?

GRASSLEY: Well, it isn't questions that linger. It's the lack of transparency. And I think yesterday that statement brings some transparency to it. But I think we also ought to know about the investigation of the leakers, whoever they are, because we know they've committed a crime by doing the leaking that they have. And what I've been calling for - because I didn't hear anything about the hearing yesterday because I was involved in my own hearing. But I did tweet on this in the morning before my hearing started, that we ought to have greater transparency.

MARTIN: Some of the president's policies are already in court, so it's not beyond the pale that the Supreme Court may at some point have to make a ruling that directly involves the president. Are you convinced that Neil Gorsuch has that kind of independence?

GRASSLEY: I think he stated that sort of independence when he visited with one of the senators when he was asked about that, and he said that he didn't like some of the things that the president was inferring. And it seems to me that that immediately shows independence. And I think his approach to the law signifies that by the statement that he made about not being a legislator. He would surely follow what was said about Nixon. No president's above the law.

MARTIN: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, thank you so much for your time this morning.

GRASSLEY: I appreciate very much your courtesy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.