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U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch arrives with former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte for his meeting with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 15, 2017. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Shaheen hosts 'cordial' meeting with Supreme Court nominee


U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, described her 40-minute meeting with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch Wednesday as “cordial,” but stressed it’s too early to say whether she could support President Trump’s choice to join the nation’s highest court.

The two-term Democrat said she impressed on Gorsuch her support for the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide and her opposition to the Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited, outside spending on campaigns.

“I think it is not clear what his views are. I am going to continue to review his record and follow his hearing very carefully and make a determination about his candidacy once I review all of that,” Shaheen said during a telephone interview after their sitdown in Shaheen’s office.

Shaheen said Gorsuch believes Presidents should not question the independence or competence of judges who disagree with their administration’s decisions.

“I asked him whether he approved of the President’s comments essentially asking him if he thought the President’s remarks in the past about judges were appropriate and he said he did not,” Shaheen said.

But Gorsuch retreated on one philosophical stance and that is whether the nominee is a self-proclaimed originalist or the type of conservative judge who interprets only what the Founders meant when they adopted the Constitution 230 years ago, according to Shaheen.

“I asked him about the reports that he is an originalist and what that meant to which he said he did not like being pigeonholed or efforts to describe where he was,” Shaheen said.

“He said he was his own person and tried to follow where the law went.”

In a 2016 speech, Gorsuch declared that while legislators should consider policy questions and moral convictions in shaping the law, judges should do neither.

Rather, “judges should instead strive to apply the law as they find it, focusing backwards, not forwards,” on the original meaning of the Constitution when it was written.

Likewise, Shaheen said Gorsuch resisted associating himself as one who would join an “activist conservative court” led by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“He again didn’t like the effort to typecast him,” Shaheen said.

While she can’t win the Senate nomination for him, Shaheen agreed having former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte serve as Gorsuch’s political guide is an asset.

“I am sure it’s helpful for him to have someone who understands the Senate and the process that he has to go through,” Shaheen said of Ayotte who was present for Wednesday’s meeting.

Gorsuch has now met with nearly half of the entire Senate.

Shaheen said she’ll support bringing his nomination up for a vote and it should require the backing of a majority of 60 senators to confirm him.

“I haven’t talked to any Democrat who suggested that we should do what the Republicans did last year, which was to deny this nominee a hearing and a vote,” Shaheen said referring to Merrick Garland, former President Obama’s choice whose nomination Senate GOP leaders blocked from going forward in 2016.

On an unrelated matter, Shaheen called a “very real threat” reports of a Russian spy ship spotted twice cruising off the East Coast most recently one just 30 miles away from the U.S. Navy submarine base in Groton, Conn., and also off the coast of Delaware.

“This puts into context why President Trump’s refusal to address Russian interference in our elections and Russian interference in Europe is so troubling,” Shaheen said. “These are national security issues.”

It’s doubly alarming on the heels of Russia deploying a cruise missile in violation of a landmark arms treaty with the U.S., Shaheen added.

“They are not acting in compliance with international norms right now and they should be condemned, not praised as President Trump has done,” Shaheen summed up.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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