Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said at a press conference he held at the University of Baltimore School of Law on Friday morning that he plans to be “strict” in determining if President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, will “satisfy the standard.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questions Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson during Tillerson’s confirmation hearing before the committee, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
“I am not confident that the Republican leadership in the Senate will have the right process for us to adequately evaluate this nominee, based upon what they did last year,” Cardin said, referring to Republicans’ “disrespectful” decision to not consider a nominee forwarded by President Barack Obama. “I’m going to be very careful about process as we go through this nominee.”
Cardin also expressed concerns in Gorsuch’s decision making, particularly his controversial Hobby Lobby health insurance decision in 2013, in which he ruled that businesses were protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Cardin said that Gorsuch’s decision prioritized the business’ constitutional rights and religious protections over the rights and religious protections of the individual.
He also said that he took “particular offence” to an article Gorsuch wrote in the National Review in 2005 in which Gorsuch wrote that “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda.”
Cardin expressed additional concerns that Trump’s recent executive orders—particularly the banning of immigration from certain predominately-Muslim countries—have already challenged the Constitution, and because of that, the judiciary needs to be independent.
“We need a judiciary who will stand up to President Trump when he goes outside the limits of the power of the president,” Cardin said. “I want to make sure that this nominee will represent the protection of the American people and not narrow interests—and that’s a major concern.”
At the press conference, other representatives from the law, religious and civil rights community spoke-up to publicly urge the senator to carefully and thoroughly vet the nominee, including constitutional lawyer Dwight Pettit; University of Baltimore School of Law professor Jane Murphy; the Rev. Todd Yeary, senior pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church; Ivan Bates of the Monumental City Bar Association; and president-elect of the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys Nancy Tinch.
“Do not allow this process to be hijacked by intimidation,” Yeary said to Cardin. “Scrutinize this candidate and ensure that should he win confirmation, that all the rights of every citizen of the United States, regardless of their degree or pedigree, is going to be protected.”
“This is the type of nomination that could turn back some of the laws that we saw Thurgood Marshall fight for,” Bates said. “This is the type of nomination that could make sure that the privileged have more privilege, the poor are placed in a box and almost placed to the side and forgotten.”
“The decisions that are being made definitely have an effect on women, African American women, all women, children and families,” Tinch told the AFRO. “As an organization, we will continue doing the things we can do on our end, and will continue encouraging and supporting our friends, families and our communities to be actively engaged in this democratic process.”