Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined me this morning to discuss President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the United States Supreme Court:
HH: Joined now by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of the lions of the Senate, Chuck Grassley. Senator Grassley, good morning, it’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt show.
CG: Oh, hey, thank you a lot, and I also want to thank you for your leadership that you showed last year about following the Biden rule and letting the people have a voice.
HH: Well, it is, it has saved originalism, and now Neil Gorsuch is the nominee. The first question, it’s really the only question, if Democrats stop and up or down vote, will the Reid Rule be invoked to break the filibuster?
CG: Well, I’ll tell you, it may sound like I’m trying to not answer your question, but let me put it in perspective. We shouldn’t even have to face that issue for this reason, and that is that in the first term of Clinton, there were two vacancies. Republicans didn’t filibuster. And in the first term of Obama, there were two vacancies, and Republicans didn’t filibuster. So Trump should have the same courtesy from the Democrats. And your question’s kind of hypothetical, but let me say this. The nominee will be confirmed, and I can’t imagine that Democrats would obstruct such a mainstream and sterling candidate that Gorsuch is. And if they do obstruct him, it would be clear to me that they’d obstruct almost anybody that could be put up.
HH: And that would lead to the invocation of the Reid Rule. That’s the implication that I also got from Senator Cornyn and Senator Thune last week, and I’ll bring it up with the Majority Leader next hour. But it’s clear that the Reid Rule is out there. You’d rather not use it, but it seems to me that it’s almost certain the Republicans would if they obstruct.
CG: Yeah, well, you know, you would think that Schumer would not want to have the Reid Rule imposed in this instance, because I heard him on television, or heard him someplace, where he was bragging about that it was, should not have been changed, or that he made sure it wasn’t changed for somebody for the Supreme Court.
HH: Well, that’s it. That’s their dilemma. We’ll see. Let me ask you about some practicalities, Senator. How soon will we have, you know, there’s the last sitting of the Supreme Court in April. Will we have Judge Gorsuch confirmed by April 7th before the Senate goes on its Easter recess?
CG: The answer is yes. And if we get into a long debate that takes us beyond April the 7th, I haven’t told McConnell this, yet, but McConnell ought to be letting people know that it’s so important to get this seat filled that if we don’t get this done by April the 7th, that the Easter recess should be cancelled to make sure it gets done.
HH: Okay, I will pass that along when he shows up next hour, Mr. Chairman. So when do we first see, what’s the schedule, the very practical stuff?
HH: You’re the chairman. When do we first see Judge Gorsuch before your committee?
CG: Six weeks, approximately.
HH: And why does it take that long to get him there?
CG: Okay, well first of all, the six weeks that I’m talking about, you could say 30-45 days, but that’s kind of an average for what it’s taken for Supreme Court justices over a long period of time under both Republican and Democrat presidents. And number one, he’s got to fill out a questionnaire. That shouldn’t take him too long. But for, there’s a traditional questionnaire that goes out. Secondly, he’s going to have to have time to appear at least before 20 Senators in their individual offices one on one, and if he’s, if the people that are teaching him how to get around Senate confirmation, he should probably see another 40 people beyond the 20 that are on the committee. And if he can see more than those 60 Senators altogether, it would be better. And then it also, this guy is a prolific writer, a very good writer, and he’s got, well, I suppose hundreds of opinions and a ten year time on the court.
CG: Then the lawyers of our committee, both Republican and Democrat, have to go through those and vet them. And so that’s kind of what that six week is used for.
HH: And then, just to switch subjects briefly, there are 13 appeals court vacancies. Do you expect nominees for these soon, and will they slow down because of the Gorsuch nomination? Or can we all chew gum and walk at the same time and get those vacancies filled?
CG: The latter, and I hope that happens. But remember, we can’t do anything in the United States Senate until we get it from the White House and the White House Counsel, I think, is very, very alerted by me and Senator McConnell of the importance of getting these positions filled, including 100 district courts, and not leaving any vacancy when we get done. Well, there might be a few vacancies, but not people that are vacant right now, and move on. And so we’re hoping that the White House Counsel has the staff and the stamina, and the Senators that have to make recommendations in the consulting role or their advisory role that Senators have, get the names and get them approved so we get the blue slips returned. So it’s pretty much up to the White House Counsel, but we are going to have a very aggressive agenda for them in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
HH: That is great news, Chairman Grassley. Go big, go far, go fast. That’s my new hashtag. Thank you for being with me. Come back early and often, Mr. Chairman.
End of interview.