Schumer: Gorsuch 'avoided answers like the plague' in meeting

Pence: Neil Gorsuch worthy successor to Scalia
Pence: Neil Gorsuch worthy successor to Scalia

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Story highlights

  • The New York Democrat's views could be very influential with other senators in his caucus
  • Schumer said he hasn't made up his mind about whether he will support Gorsuch

Washington (CNN)Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch Tuesday after the two men met on Capitol Hill because the judge "avoided answers like the plague."

Schumer said he pressed Gorsuch, whom President Donald Trump nominated last week, about hot button legal and constitutional issues that are related to the new President. For instance, Schumer asked about a Muslim ban, the Emoluments Clause, voter fraud allegations and whether Gorsuch agreed with conservative lawyers who have said some of the President's executive orders have gone too far.
"But the judge today avoided answers like the plague. This President is testing fundamental underpinnings of our democracy and its institutions. These times deserve answers and Judge Gorsuch did not provide them. I have serious, serious concerns about this nominee," Schumer told reporters after the nearly hour-long meeting in his Capitol office.
The New York Democrat's views could be very influential with other senators in his caucus who must decide in the coming months whether to block Gorsuch through a filibuster or clear the way for him to be confirmed.
"He is clearly a very smart, polite and capable man who loves being a judge," Schumer said about Gorsuch, who currently serves on the US Court of Appeals in Denver. "But his nomination comes at a perilous time in the relationship between the executive and judicial branches. On the campaign trail and from inside the White House, President Trump has shown a deep contempt for an independent judiciary that doesn't always bow before him."
Schumer said his questions about specific issues were aimed at determining whether Gorsuch could be independent of the man who appointed him to the high court. Schumer acknowledged court nominees typically avoid answering questions about specific cases but said he believed his questions were general enough that they deserved answers.
The White House team working with Gorsuch on his nomination process declined to comment on Schumer's charges but pointed reporters to a comment from Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, who also met with Gorsuch Tuesday.
"Judge Gorsuch is a supremely qualified and thoughtful nominee," Sasse said. "The 'Chicken Little' hysteria from some of my friends on the other side of the aisle is just sad and absurd. If they keep working to paint Judge Gorsuch as a mouth-breathing bald eagle hunter, they'll embarrass themselves. Judge Gorsuch and I talked at length about our constitutional system of checks and balances. Whenever Democrats want to stop dealing in fiction, I'm confident Judge Gorsuch is ready for a serious conversation."
Schumer, who is a member of Judiciary Committee that is expected to hold confirmation hearings next month, said he hasn't made up his mind about whether he will support Gorsuch. But he said because of Trump's actions since taking office, the judge will get special scrutiny.
"He will have additional meetings, he will have a hearing, and then the Senate will render judgment on his nomination. We must give this nominee the scrutiny that this unusual moment demands," Schumer said.