In his introduction of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet directly addressed the elephant in the room: the widespread belief among Democrats that the open seat created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia was stolen from them when Senate Republicans denied a hearing to President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said in urging his colleagues to give a fair hearing and a vote to Gorsuch, even though Democrats still have the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees and are under pressure from their base to obstruct the president’s agenda at every opportunity.
Bennet praised Gorsuch as a “son of Colorado” with “a distinguished record of public service, private practice and outstanding integrity and intellect,” even as he would not yet commit to voting for him.
“I have no doubt that unlike the president, Judge Gorsuch has profound respect for an independent judiciary and the vital role it plays as a check on the executive and legislative branches. I may not always agree with his rulings, but I believe Judge Gorsuch is unquestionably committed to the rule of law,” he said.
Like his Republican counterpart U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who has been a strong supporter of Gorsuch and who shared the responsibility of introducing him to the committee, Bennet noted the lack of Western representation on the court. Sandra Day O’Connor is the last Westerner to be nominated to the highest court.
In his own remarks, Gardner focused on Gorsuch’s Western credentials — a fourth generation Coloradan, a skier, a flyfisherman, a man whose family roots reflect the “grit and determination of those who built the West.”
He also noted that Gorsuch has the endorsement of “No. 7, John Elway of the great Denver Broncos.”
Gardner praised Gorsuch for not being an “activist judge,” but a “faithful adherent” to the Constitution.
“When you look at his record, his writing, his statements, it’s easy to see why Judge Gorsuch has such overwhelming appeal,” he said. “Judge Gorsuch is not an ideologue. He’s a mainstream jurist who follows the law as written and doesn’t try to supplant it with his own personal policy preferences.”
Bennet said the Senate failed in its obligations by denying Garland a hearing, but that does not justify giving Gorsuch the same treatment, he said.
“I am not naive about the reasons the Senate majority denied Judge Garland a hearing and a vote,” he said. “The Senate’s failure to do its duty with respect to Judge Garland was an embarrassment to this body that will be recorded in history and in the lives of millions of Americans. It is tempting to deny Judge Gorsuch a fair hearing because of the Senate’s prior failure. But Mr. Chairman, two wrongs never make a right. The Supreme Court is too important for us not to find a way to end our destructive gridlock and bitter partisanship.”