Trump's Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch said he would have no trouble ruling against the president

WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) - Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court pick, said on Tuesday he would have no trouble ruling against the president as he tried to stake out his independence amid concerns by Democrats that he would be beholden to the man who nominated him.

With the ideological balance of the Supreme Court at stake, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the second day of its confirmation hearing for Gorsuch, a conservative federal appeals court judge from Colorado. Republicans, who control Congress, have praised Gorsuch, 49, as highly qualified for a lifetime appointment as a justice while Democrats have questioned his suitability.

SEE ALSO: US official: Trump administration weighing broad sanctions against North Korea

Chuck Grassley, the panel's Republican chairman, asked Gorsuch "whether you'd have any trouble ruling against a president who appointed you."

"That's a softball, Mr. Chairman," Gorsuch said. "I have no difficulty ruling against or for any party, other than based on what the law and facts in the particular case require. And I'm heartened by the support I have received from people who recognize that there's no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country."

MORE: See Gorsuch's body language at his hearing

12 PHOTOS
Inside the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch
See Gallery
Inside the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch
With his wife Louise looking on,U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017.
Former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) (from L) and Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch's wife Marie Louise Gorsuch listen to opening statements from fellow senators during the first day of Gorsuch's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
With his wife Louise looking on, U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
With his wife Louise (2ndL) and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (L) looking on,U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Neil Gorsuch (C) leaves after his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing as US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill, in Washington March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool
Neil Gorsuch takes an oath during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing as US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill, in Washington March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool
U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch is embraced by his wife Marie Louise after he thanked her in his opening statement at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Neil Gorsuch takes an oath during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing as US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill, in Washington March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch looks at his papers as he delivers his opening remarks at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Trump has repeatedly assailed the judiciary both as a candidate and since taking office on Jan. 20. Trump condemned federal judges who have put on hold his two executive orders to ban the entry into the United States of people from several Muslim-majority countries.

"A good judge doesn't give a whit about politics or the political implications of his or her decision, (and) decides where the law takes him or her fearlessly," Gorsuch added.

In a Twitter post during the hearing on Tuesday, Trump praised Gorsuch as "the kind of judge we need" for the high court.


If Gorsuch is confirmed by the Senate, as expected, he would restore a narrow 5-4 conservative court majority. The seat has been vacant for 13 months, since the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats have slim chances of blocking his nomination in the Republican-led Senate.

17 PHOTOS
Judge Neil Gorsuch
See Gallery
Judge Neil Gorsuch
Neil Gorsuch pauses as he speaks after taking the judicial oath during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump on nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: President Donald Trump watches as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch hugs his wife Marie Louise moments after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the judicial oath during a swearing-in ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, April 10, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Judge Neil Gorsuch (C) and his wife Marie Louise look on, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Swearing in of Coloradan Neil M. Gorsuch as the newest member of the, United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit, with his wife Louise Gorsuch, holding the bible, and his two daughters, Belinda Gorsuch age 4, and Emma Gorsuch age 6.

(Denver Post Photo By John Prieto)

Judge Neil Gorsuch (L) and his wife Marie Louise look on, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. Trump named Judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Neil Gorsuch stands with his wife Marie Louise as U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump on nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump (L) and Louise Gorsuch (2R) watch as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administers a judicial oath to Neil Gorsuch during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Swearing in of Coloradan Neil M. Gorsuch as the newest member of the, United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit, with his wife Louise Gorsuch, holding the bible, and his two daughters, Belinda Gorsuch age 4, and Emma Gorsuch age 6.

(Denver Post Photo By John Prieto)

U.S. President Donald Trump steps back as Neil Gorsuch (L) approaches the podium after being nominated to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Donald Trump points to the audience after the swearing in of Judge Neil Gorsuch as an Associate Supreme Court Justice in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Robert Hoyt, left, General Counsel of the Department of the Treasury, is congratulated by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson as Judge Neil Gorsuch with the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, looks on in the Cash room of the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 5, 2007.

(Photo by David Scull/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Neil Gorsuch speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court as Gorsuch (R) stands with his wife Marie Louise at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump on nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Senate Democrats and liberal activists have criticized Trump for promising to nominate a jurist who would pass an anti-abortion "litmus test." Gorsuch said no one in the nomination process ever asked him for commitments or promises on how he would rule in any case.

"I have offered no promises on how I'd rule in any case to anyone. And I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so, no matter who's doing the asking," Gorsuch told the committee.

Gorsuch said Supreme Court precedents deserve respect, even as he sidestepped answering whether he thought a series of contentious cases from the past had been decided correctly. He said it would be "beginning of the end" of the independent judiciary if judges had to indicate how they would rule in future cases.

Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the committee, asked Gorsuch about the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 ruling in the case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. Many conservatives want that ruling overturned.

Feinstein asked Gorsuch whether that ruling should be considered a "super precedent" because its central holding has been upheld in subsequent cases. "It has been reaffirmed many times," Gorsuch responded, although he offered no view on whether it was properly decided.

'A GOOD JUDGE'

"A good judge will consider it as precedent of the United States Supreme Court worthy of treatment of precedent like any other," he added.

"I'm not in a position to tell you whether I personally like or dislike a precedent. That's not relevant to my job," he added.

Gorsuch also declined to offer his view on whether cases on gun rights, the right to a lawyer in a criminal case, religious rights and the ruling tipping the 2000 presidential election to Republican George W. Bush were correctly decided.

Like previous Supreme Court nominees appointed by Republicans and Democrats, Gorsuch kept a lot of questions at arm's length, leaving Feinstein sounding exasperated.

"Can you do a 'yes' or 'no'?" Feinstein asked as she sought an answer.

"I wish I could," Gorsuch replied.

"I wish you could, too," Feinstein said.

Grassley said Tuesday's session could last 10 hours, with all the committee members getting to question him.

Gorsuch hesitated when Feinstein asked him about his work on detainee issues and torture while working in Bush's Justice Department in 2005. She said that in a document showing a set of talking points from November 2005 asking whether aggressive interrogation techniques yielded any valuable information, Gorsuch had written in the margin, "Yes."

She asked Gorsuch what information he had that aggressive interrogation techniques were effective. "I have to see the document, I don't recall," Gorsuch said, his brow furrowed.

Pressing a frequent Democratic concern that Gorsuch favors corporate interests, Feinstein mentioned some of his prior opinions, asking, "How do we have confidence in you that you won't just be for the big corporations, that you will be for the little man?"

Gorsuch said such decisions are just a small proportion of his work, saying he has often ruled for the "little guy."

Answering a later question from Republican Orrin Hatch, Gorsuch said, "A judge is there to make sure that every person, poor or rich, mighty or meek, gets equal protection of the law."

Grassley said on Monday the committee is likely to vote on the nomination on April 3, with the full Senate vote likely soon after. The hearing could last four days.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Will Dunham)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.