Coons joins Carper to oppose Trump’s high court nominee


DOVER — Delaware’s junior senator, Chris Coons, said Monday he will oppose Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, joining nearly all of his Democratic colleagues in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the announcement during a committee hearing.

While the Democratic minority now has enough votes to filibuster the nomination, Senate Republicans are expected to change the rules to require only a simple majority for a nomination to be successful.

“I pledged to treat President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, fairly and to engage actively in this process and I did so. And throughout this process I have kept an open mind,” Sen. Coons said in the hearing, which was broadcast on C-SPAN.

“After reviewing Judge Gorsuch’s record, after meeting with him twice, after participating in four days of very well-run Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, submitting … questions and getting feedback from literally thousands of Delawareans, I have decided that I will not support Judge Gorsuch’s nomination in the Judiciary Committee.”

While calling the judge an “intelligent jurist” whom he agrees with on some issues, Sen. Coons said he is concerned with Judge Gorsuch’s views on topics like health care and privacy.

He specifically cited Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a case in which Judge Gorsuch was involved as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Judge Gorsuch ruled a private company did not have to provide birth control coverage for its employees because of the owner’s religious beliefs.

The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which concurred with the Tenth Circuit.

Judge Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump in February to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. A filibuster by Senate Democrats, including Sens. Coons and Tom Carper, is expected to fail.

Republicans have said they plan to confirm Judge Gorsuch this week.

Democratic opposition largely stems from two areas: Dissatisfaction with some of Judge Gorsuch’s judicial opinions and the fate of former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.

Republicans refused to hold a hearing last year for Judge Garland, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who was nominated in March 2016 by President Obama following the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

That decision angered Democrats.

“The unprecedented obstruction my Republican colleagues in the Senate mounted last year against Judge Garland was a shameful chapter for the United States Senate and our Constitution,” Sen. Carper said last week in a statement. “Judge Garland, a consensus builder and one of the most qualified and respected judges in the country, waited 293 days for a hearing and a vote that ultimately never came. A good man was treated terribly.”

Sen. Coons said Thursday the Republican refusal to hold a hearing made him “furious” and he lamented the increasing role of partisan politics in the confirmation process.

“I am not ready to end debate on this issue, so I will be voting against cloture unless we are able, as a body, to finally sit down and find a way to avoid the ‘nuclear option’ and ensure the process to fill the next vacancy on the court is not a narrowly partisan process but rather an opportunity for both parties to weigh in and ensure we place a judge on the court who can secure support from members of both parties,” he said.

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