Gorsuch’s Heartfelt Open: ‘We Are Americans’ First

Supreme Court nominee undermines partisan attack lines with statement of national unity

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 20 Mar 2017 at 6:31 PM

U.S. Appellate Court Judge Neil Gorsuch reminded the Senate Judiciary Committee that “long before we are Republicans or Democrats … we are Americans” during an opening statement at his confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court Monday.

“I am honored and I am humbled to be here,” Gorsuch began. “Since coming to Washington, I have met with over 70 senators. You have offered me a warm welcome and wise advice. Thank you.”

“Once in a while, of course, we judges do disagree. But our disagreements are never about politics — only the law’s demands.”

Thanking his home-state lawmakers — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — for their introductions, Gorsuch highlighted their ability to cross partisan barriers by “reminding us that long before we are Republicans or Democrats, we are Americans.”

“Sitting here, I am acutely aware of my own imperfections,” Gorsuch said. “But I pledge to each of you and to the American people that, if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of our great nation.”

Trump’s Supreme Court nominee also took the opportunity to thank his friends — the “liberals and conservatives and independents from every kind of background and belief” — who he said “have written this committee on my behalf.”

Noting that judging is often a “lonely and hard job,” Gorsuch thanked judges across the country and those Supreme Court justices who have gone before him for the example they left to follow.

“But I have seen how these men and women work with courage and collegiality, independence and integrity. Their work helps make the promises of our Constitution and laws real for us all,” Gorsuch said. “By their example, these judges taught me about the rule of law and the importance of an independent judiciary, how hard our forebearers worked to win these things, how easy they are to lose, and how every generation must either take its turn carrying the baton or watch it fall.”

Expressing his admiration for the U.S. judges throughout history who dedicate their lives to delivering the rulings they “believe the law requires,” Gorsuch reaffirmed his commitment to abiding by the Constitution and the rule of law.

“For all its imperfections, the rule of law in this nation truly is a wonder — and it is no wonder that it is the envy of the world,” Gorsuch said. “Once in a while, of course, we judges do disagree. But our disagreements are never about politics — only the law’s demands.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Gorsuch pointed to the inscription engraved on the tombstone of a long-deceased lawyer and judge — Increase Sumner — that captivated him when he stumbled upon it as a student in the Old Granary cemetery in Boston, where Paul Revere and John Hancock are also buried.

The inscription read: “As a lawyer, he was faithful and able; as a judge, patient, impartial, and decisive; In private life, he was affectionate and mild; in public life, he was dignified and firm. Party feuds were allayed by the correctness of his conduct; calumny was silenced by the weight of his virtues; and rancor softened by the amenity of his manners.”

"These words stick with me. I keep them on my desk," Gorsuch said. "They serve for me as a daily reminder of the law's integrity, that a useful life can be led in its service, of the hard work it takes, and an encouragement to good habits when I fail and falter. At the end of it all, I could hope for nothing more than to be described as he was. If confirmed, I pledge that I will do everything in my power to be that man."

Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the Judicial Crisis Network, issued a statement following Gorsuch's hearing in which she said Gorsuch's "opening remarks today demonstrate why he is an exceptionally well qualified nominee and why he has received widespread bipartisan support, including from Democrats in his home state and prominent former Obama officials."

"Senate Democrats made it clear that they intend to use these hearings as a political vehicle to attack the president and engage in obstruction and gridlock," Severino, whose organization is running ads backing Gorsuch's confirmation, continued. "Judge Gorsuch is winning bipartisan support because he is a mainstream, fair and independent judge with steadfast faithfulness to the rule of law and the Constitution who deserves a fair up or down vote."

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