Trump Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch faces Senate hearing

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch gestures on Capitol Hill on 27 February 2017Image copyright

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, faces tough scrutiny as his Senate confirmation hearings begin on Monday.

Democrats will question whether Mr Gorsuch, a respected conservative judge on a Colorado appeals court, will maintain independence from Mr Trump.

He would fill a vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death 13 months ago.

Democrats are still angry at Republicans for refusing to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

But it is unclear if they will try to block Mr Gorsuch’s confirmation.

The nominee will make an opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to kick off hearings that could span four days.

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If Mr Gorsuch, 49, is approved by the Senate he would restore a 5-4 conservative majority on America’s highest court.

As a lifetime appointee, he would be one of nine justices who have the final legal word on many of the most sensitive US issues, from abortion to gender to gun control to workers’ rights.

Democrats are expected to focus on what they say are Mr Gorsuch’s previous rulings in favour of business interests.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said last week: “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge but his record and his career clearly show he harbours a right-wing, pro-corporate special interest legal agenda.”

Media captionThe Supreme Court has been without a full bench for almost a full year.

The nominee is also likely to be quizzed on whether he is sufficiently independent from President Trump, who has lambasted judges for ruling against his bid to restrict travel from certain Muslim-majority nations.

Mr Gorsuch, a judge on the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, will also be pressed on his role as a Department of Justice lawyer under former President George W Bush from 2005-06.

During that period Mr Gorsuch helped defend the administration’s expansive use of aggressive interrogation techniques.

His authorship of a 2006 book in which he argued against the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia will also probably come under the microscope.

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Democrats’ liberal supporters are demanding they do everything within their power to stop Mr Gorsuch.

Memories are still raw of Republicans’ refusal to even consider former Democratic President Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

But Democratic options are limited.

Republicans control the Senate and they can change the chamber’s rules to make it easier to confirm Mr Gorsuch if any attempt is made to block him.

Questioning of the nominee will begin on Tuesday, and a full Senate vote is expected early next month.

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Justice Scalia (front row, second from left) was one of five justices that made up the conservative majority on the court

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