While Judge Neil Gorsuch answered questions during his confirmation hearings, the Senate’s top Democrat on Tuesday questioned whether he should be confirmed at all amid an FBI investigation into President Trump’s campaign.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke on the Senate floor a day after FBI Director James B. Comey confirmed that the bureau was investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the presidential race.
As part of his extraordinary admission, coming while he testified before a House committee on Monday, the FBI director also noted that the probe began last July, at the height of the presidential contest.
The presidential campaign also kept open the seat Gorsuch hopes to fill. Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last year, Senate Republicans vowed not to consider anyone nominated by then-President Barack Obama because it was an election year, a promise they held after Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland.
“I’d like to point out that it is the height of irony that Republicans held this Supreme Court seat open for nearly a calendar year while President Obama was in office, but are now rushing to fill the seat for a president whose campaign is under investigation by the FBI,” Schumer said, according to remarks sent out by his office.
Schumer said that, to him, it appeared “unseemly to be moving forward so fast on confirming a Supreme Court Justice with a lifetime appointment” due to the looming FBI investigation, which could potentially last for months or years.
“You can bet that if the shoe was on the other foot – and a Democratic president was under investigation by the FBI – that Republicans would be howling at the moon about filling a Supreme Court seat in such circumstances,” Schumer said. “After all, they stopped a president who wasn’t under investigation from filling a seat with nearly a year left in his presidency.”
During his hearings, Gorsuch was asked about Garland’s snub. He praised his fellow judge but declined to comment on what happened last year, calling it “politics.”