Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, will appear for hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning March 20.
GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, announced the date Thursday. He said he hoped to follow a timeline similar to those of recent Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
“He is well-qualified and respected,” Grassley said in a statement. “It’s time for him to have the opportunity to speak for himself before the Judiciary Committee.” He added that Gorsuch “has met every demand placed on him by the minority.” The judge recently submitted a 68-page response to the committee’s questionnaire for judicial nominees, and provided financial disclosures.
Based on this schedule, if confirmed, it is not likely he will join the high court before the current term ends. The justices will hear the final cases of this term from April 17 through the 26. Final opinions are released in June, before the court adjourns for the summer. Typically, hearings for Supreme Court nominees last several days, and several weeks may elapse between the conclusion of a hearing and the committee’s vote on a nominee, making the prospect of an early-April floor vote unlikely.
Though Gorsuch could join the high court by May, at that point the justices will be preparing rulings in cases they have heard throughout the term. Gorsuch is precluded from participating in these cases, as he was not a member of the Court at the time they were heard.
If the U.S. Department of Justice choses to bring an appeal on President Trump’s executive order on refugees to the Supreme Court in the coming months, it is not clear whether or not Gorsuch would be able to participate, based on the schedule Grassley presented.
A number of Senate Democrats have promised to use all available means by which to block the nomination. Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, and Elizabeth Warren announced they would attempt to stage a filibuster of the nomination just minutes after Gorsuch’s name was announced. Breaking a filibuster requires 60 votes. Republicans currently hold 52 seats in the chamber. However, at least nine Democrats have publicly committed to holding a floor vote on the nomination, almost assuring his confirmation.
It is not unusual for lawmakers to vote in favor of ending filibusters while voting against a nominee on a floor vote. Fourteen Senate Democrats voted to break a filibuster of Justice Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2006, but voted against his confirmation.
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