Senate Democrats put Judge Neil Gorsuch on the defensive during his third appearance before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Wednesday, grilling him over one of his holdings that was reversed by the Supreme Court and for his alleged ties to “dark money.”
The exchanges marked the first time Democratic attacks on the judge seemed to gain traction, since GOP aides rushed spin to reporters for the first time in the hearings. Despite this, there was a tangible sense inside the Capitol Hill committee room that the main work of the hearings had more or less concluded. Empty seats filled the press gallery, before a dais that was nearly vacant for most of the day.
In the early minutes of the hearing, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling which overturned one of Gorsuch’s own holdings. The case involved an autistic student seeking compensation for costs incurred pursuing private education. The student’s family argued they were owed compensation because a special education plan devised by the student’s public school was inadequate to meet his needs, forcing the family to seek a private alternative.
A lower court found in the school’s favor, and anchored much of its analysis in an opinion Gorsuch wrote in 2008 as a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In the ruling, Gorsuch said schools are in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) — which requires public schools to provide disabled children with a “free appropriate public education” — so long as they provide some form of educational benefit to the student. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned this holding, finding public schools had to provide a greater level of benefit than Gorsuch asserted.
Senate Democrats trumpeted the decision as further proof Gorsuch consistently aligns with the powerful, a theme on which they hit throughout the week.
Today President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, was unanimously rebuked by the Supreme Court.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 22, 2017
(Read more from “Gorsuch Nearly Got Through His Hearings Unscathed — Then SCOTUS Stepped In” HERE)