Maine Sen. Angus King said Tuesday afternoon that he would oppose President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court and support Democratic efforts to block his nomination through a filibuster.
In a release, King said he was opposing Gorsuch in part because he refused to answer questions about his judicial philosophy during confirmation hearings, as well as his judicial record, which King said elevated the rights of corporations over employees, and the amount of dark money that had gone into his nomination effort.
“This has not been an easy decision,” said King, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats. “I have read many of Judge Gorsuch’s opinions, met with him personally, attended a portion of his hearing before the Judiciary Committee, watched other parts of the hearing, listened to the people of Maine on both sides of this question, and read all I could find on his background, judicial philosophy, and temperament.
“I started this process with an open mind and an inclination to support a nominee with this judge’s educational and judicial experience,” King continued. “I know that many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle shared this initial impression. But as I got further into my research, and especially after watching his interactions with the Committee at his hearing, my opinion changed.”
King is the 44th senator to announce he would vote against Gorsuch’s confirmation and against moving ahead with the nomination process. The Democrats had already secured the votes they needed to block the nomination via a filibuster, but the Republican majority is expected to unilaterally change the chamber’s rules to allow Gorsuch and future Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed via a simple majority.
Maine’s other senator, Republican Susan Collins, announced last week she is supporting Gorsuch.
April Humphrey, co-founder of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, helped organize a campaign to convince King and Collins to oppose Gorsuch, including sending them a letter Monday signed by 98 Maine lawyers. She said she is pleased with King’s announcement.
“I am relieved that he came to the decision he came to and feel heartened as a Mainer to know that he is listening to the concerns we shared,” Humphrey said. “Gorsuch’s extreme positions, his judicial activism, his support for corporate interests – we knew we had to organize to stop him.”
Timothy Woodcock of Bangor said he was disappointed with King’s position. Woodcock, who served on the staff of Sen. Bill Cohen in the 1980s, was one of 49 Maine attorneys who wrote Maine’s senators last week urging them to confirm Gorsuch, describing him as “exceptionally well qualified” to join the court.
“If you look at Judge Gorsuch, you have to ask: If not him, who would be satisfactory to the Democrats?” Woodcock said Tuesday evening. “He’s very qualified and to put the filibuster at risk over a nominee of this quality seems very unfortunate.”
Woodcock said his greatest concern was for the institution of the Senate, until now less partisan and more stately and well-mannered than the House.
“The filibuster is really a mechanism that ensures that the minority will be heard,” he said. “It’s loss will mark a further erosion of Senate norms and another troubling sign of what seems a period of hyper-partisanship.”
King’s 14-paragraph statement laid out in detail the reasons for his opposition, including concerns that Gorsuch’s record shows a picture “not of an independent judge, but of a judicial activist well to the right of the current members of the court, except perhaps for Justice (Clarence) Thomas, on fundamental issues of constitutional structure.”
“He would favor a return to a pre-1935 jurisprudence whereby the federal government (including Congress) was severely contained in its ability to address urgent national priorities,” wrote King, who is an attorney.
Regarding the filibuster, King said that while he came to the Senate “deeply skeptical of this practice,” he had come to appreciate its role in forcing “a modicum of bipartisanship” in requiring a 60-vote threshold for important issues. He said that a major decision such as a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should require 60 votes “in order to garner broader, more sustainable support, which I think is in the interests of the nation.”
“To support cloture” – the ending of debate – “in the current circumstances would make me guilty of ‘complicity,’ to borrow Judge Gorsuch’s memorable term,” King said.
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