U.S. President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch warns of judicial overreach during his Senate confirmation hearing. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, on Monday emphasized the need for judicial independence even as Trump castigates jurists who have ruled against him, while Democrats questioned whether he would rule against abortion rights and gun control while favoring corporations. As Senate Judiciary Committee opened its confirmation hearing for Gorsuch, Republicans praised the conservative federal appeals court judge from Colorado as highly qualified for a lifetime appointment as a justice, with the ideological balance of the Supreme Court at stake. Speaking publicly for the first time since Trump nominated him on Jan. 31, Gorsuch defended his record as judge in the face of criticism of his rulings by committee Democrats. Despite slim chances of blocking his nomination in the Republican-led Senate, Democrats raised questions about Gorsuch's suitability for the court. Gorsuch emphasized the need for "neutral and independent judges to apply the law in the people's disputes" and warned against judicial overreach. "If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk," Gorsuch said. Committee Democrats noted that Gorsuch has the chance to join the court only because Senate Republicans last year refused to consider Democratic former President Barack Obama's nomination of federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland. "Our job is to determine whether Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable, mainstream conservative or is he not," said the panel's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee's plain-spoken chairman, said the panel is likely to vote on the nomination on April 3, with the full Senate vote likely soon after. Gorsuch was set to give his opening statement later in the day and face questioning by senators on Tuesday.