WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) — More than a decade ago, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed took part in a unanimous Senate vote confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Now, Reed will play a role in deciding whether Gorsuch is fit for the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia last year.
“This is a different situation,” Reed, a Democrat, argued Wednesday when asked to compare the two confirmation debates in an interview from the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
In a televised news conference Tuesday night, President Donald Trump announced Gorsuch was his pick to fill the seat that’s remained empty since Scalia’s passing.
Gorsuch will need to receive the votes of at least 60 of the Senate’s 100 members to be confirmed – unless Senate Republicans invoke the so-called “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster, which allows Democrats to block his nomination with as few as 40 votes. If that happens, Gorsuch would only need 50 votes to be confirmed.
Reed said the decision is an important one. “We’re talking about very few men and women who literally, in a decision, change the context of American life,” he said.
Some Democratic Senators have already pledged to vote no on Gorsuch, including Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Reed has not announced a final decision yet.
“There will be hearings,” said Reed. “He’ll be asked very specific questions about issues in the past. You have to give him an opportunity to answer those questions before you can make a sound judgment.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, another Democrat, has also not said how he will vote. In a statement, Whitehouse said that “the most important question President Trump’s nominee will face is where he will stand on the special interest politics that has stricken the court.”
“This has to stop, and Judge Gorsuch must pledge to stop it,” said Whitehouse, who will take part in the confirmation hearings for Gorsuch as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Roger Williams University Law School Dean Michael Yelnosky also weighed in, saying he expects Republicans to put in a fight to put Gorsuch on the high court’s bench.
Yelnosky said he expects the confirmation will “be a real partisan showdown.”