Neil Gorsuch facing Senate hearings amid ‘nuclear option’ threats

March 20 (UPI) — Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee, will begin his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Gorsuch’s three-day hearing begins at 11 a.m. in the Hart Senate Office Building. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, will preside during the hearing, which will be live-streamed from the committee’s website.

Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., as well as former acting U.S. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, will introduce Gorsuch to the committee.

Trump chose Gorsuch to replace the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. Though former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to replace Scalia, Republicans — who then and now hold a majority in Congress — refused to proceed with Garland’s nomination.

Democrats have vowed to oppose Gorsuch on principle, but Republicans have a two-seat majority in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed that the Senate will vote on Gorsuch’s nomination before leaving for its April 8 Easter recess.

Though Gorsuch’s confirmation requires 60 votes, McConnell could trigger what is called the “nuclear option” to nominate Gorsuch with a simple majority if Democrats choose to filibuster.

“It would be shocking if Neil Gorsuch wasn’t confirmed to the Supreme Court in the coming weeks,” Tom Goldstein, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who argues before the court and publishes the ScotusBlog website, said. “The Democrats are committed to opposing him. Their base is insisting on it, because of what happened to President Obama’s nominee. But the reality is, they just don’t have the votes and don’t have the goods.”

Last week, the progressive coalition The People’s Defense — a bloc of advocacy groups like NARAL, MoveOn, End Citizens United, Stand Up America and People for the American Way — organized a protest in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., which featured remarks by Democratic lawmakers and prominent advocates, and called on Trump opponents to fight harder in their efforts to keep Gorsuch off the nation’s top appellate bench.

“Gorsuch’s nomination represents an imminent threat to America’s most cherished rights and most vulnerable citizens, and millions of Americans across the country are demanding that Democratic leadership use everything in their power to block it,” the alliance said. “We must be clear: This fight is not about defensive electoral politics, it’s about our rights as Americans and our democracy as a whole.”

Trump — who asked the Senate to “go nuclear” if Democrats filibuster — has said he is confident Gorsuch will be confirmed.

“We have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law,” Trump said last month during an address to a joint session of Congress. “He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.”

Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.

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