CNN's Camerota Lets Angry Democrat Blast Gorsuch Over 'Stolen Seat'

March 30th, 2017 12:59 PM

On CNN's New Day, Thursday, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley blasted Republicans for filling the vacant Supreme Court seat with Neil Gorsuch and for not allowing Obama nominee Merrick Garland a hearing last year. Instead of challenging the Democrat, such as citing polls which show Democrats oppose blocking Gorsuch, co-host Alisyn Camerota let Merkley rant about what he called a "terrible precedent."

For example, Camerota used a tweet Merkley posted Wednesday: "Your colleagues on the Senate Committee are expected to vote on Monday as to his fitness for the Supreme Court. You tweeted something to the opposite. You said, 'I will not stand idly by and allow the government to be stolen. We must restore our we the people democracy and stop Gorsuch.'”

"This is the first time in U.S. History was stolen from the former president. This is a terrible precedent," Merkley said. "It puts a big crack in the integrity of the Supreme Court. Every 5-4 decision in the future should Gorsuch be confirmed will be in question. You do not steal...Supreme Court seats." 

Merkley added, "This is an effort to pack the Court. The Senate has been down on efforts to pack the courts. Neil Gorsuch's philosophy is one of government by and for the powerful and privileged. Not government by and for the people. It goes contrary to the fundamental vision of the Constitution."

To her credit, Camerota mentioned that the Senate unanimously confirmed Gorsuch in 2006 to serve on the Tenth Circuit. She asked, "How is it he has fallen so far or is that this is political payback?"

"You get a lot more insight when somebody is up for the Supreme Court than you do when they are up for a circuit court or district court," Merkley replied. "You have decisions and articles and conversations. What we have is the fact that Neil Gorsuch has made rulings that were clearly doing everything they could to find for corporations over ordinary workers. We have the writings that say he doesn't think the LGBT should use the courts over issues of discrimination. He does not like class action suits because they are inconvenience to corporations." 

He added, "How do you take on predatory conduct without a class action suit? All of these things line up in the place for the privileged and powerful."

When asked if he would vote in favor of Gorsuch had the GOP not blocked Garland, Mekley responded: "That's very tough to say. It's hard for me to get to that spot with this seat stolen in the integrity factor. He is way outside the judicial mainstream. I really want to see us restore a court that no longer is controlled by powerful corporate interests. That is not the vision of the Constitution."

"We have to reclaim our democracy," Merkley added. "One vision is the dark money corrupting all of our political campaigns across the country and control of the Senate. There is a lot at stake for the future of the country."

Finally, the Oregon senator chastised his colleagues on the other side of the aisle for letting the chamber's Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, consider exercising the "nuclear option," which would allow Supreme Court justices to be confirmed with a simple, not three-fifths, majority. In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid used it for presidential appointees, excluding Supreme Court nominees.

"If we change to a simple majority, what it means with the next president? They may be tempted to go further left or right outside of the mainstream," Merkley said. "Obama went down the middle. Unfortunately, President Trump has not. He has gone way outside the mainstream. That's really what the super majority is intended to prevent."

Here is the transcript of the March 30th exchange:

New Day With Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota


7:04:47 AM - 7:11:59 AM [7 min., 12  sec.]

ALISYN CAMEROTA: Sara, thank you. Joining us now is senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. 

JEFF MERKLEY: Thank you for having me. 

CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. 

CAMEROTA: How will this differ? 

MERKLEY: They are working hard to have a bipartisan focus on the facts. Get to the bottom of the facts and what really happened. I'm pleased the Senate Intel Committee is operating in this manner. I don't think it is enough. I think we should have a bipartisan commission. I think we should appoint a special prosecutor. The Senate Intel Committee is operating as it should under this circumstance. 

CAMEROTA: You don't think the house was focused on getting to the facts? 

MERKLEY: I think there has been so much tactics and strategy by the House Chairman to support the President that the credibility of the House is in shreds. 

CAMEROTA: So you are calling for a bipartisan commission, but you also have faith in the Senate Intel Committee. Which one is it? 

MERKLEY: It is all of the above. This is such serious information, it should be pursued by the FBI and Intel and public commission. By having multiple directions, we might get to the bottom of it and you throw the power of the media and some day we will know the real truth.

CAMEROTA: That would be nice. Are you giving up on the House Intel Committee getting to the bottom of anything? 

MERKLEY: Pretty much. I think anywhere the House gets to the Senate will have gotten to previously. Yes. 

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about Judge Neil Gorsuch. Your colleagues on the Senate Committee are expected to vote on Monday as to his fitness for the Supreme Court. You tweeted something to the opposite. You said, “I will not stand idly by and allow the government to be stolen. We must restore our we the people democracy and stop Gorsuch.”

MERKLEY: This is the first time in U.S. History was stolen from the former president. This is a terrible precedent. It puts a big crack in the integrity of the Supreme Court. Every 5-4 decision in the future should Gorsuch be confirmed will be in question. You do not steal Senate seats. Excuse me. Supreme Court seats. This is an effort to pack the Court. The Senate has been down on efforts to pack the courts. Neil Gorsuch's philosophy is one of government by and for the powerful and privileged. Not government by and for the people. It goes contrary to the fundamental vision of the Constitution. 

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean I know you say that about Gorsuch’s philosophy. But let’s remember, this is the same jurist, the same man who was approved by the Senate unanimously in 2006. How is it he has fallen so far or is that this is political payback?

MERKLEY: You get a lot more insight when somebody is up for the Supreme Court than you do when they are up for a circuit court or district court. You have decisions and articles and conversations. What we have is the fact that Neil Gorsuch has made rulings that were clearly doing everything they could to find for corporations over ordinary workers. We have the writings that say he doesn't think the LGBT should use the courts over issues of discrimination. He does not like class action suits because they are inconvenience to corporations. How do you take on predatory conduct without a class action suit? All of these things line up in the place for the privileged and powerful. 

CAMEROTA: If your Republican colleagues have not blocked Merrick Garland, would you be voting for Gorsuch? 

MERKLEY: That's very tough to say. It's hard for me to get to that spot with this seat stolen in the integrity factor. He is way outside the judicial mainstream. I really want to see us restore a court that no longer is controlled by powerful corporate interests. That is not the vision of the Constitution. We have to reclaim our democracy. One vision is the dark money corrupting all of our political campaigns across the country and control of the Senate. There is a lot at stake for the future of the country. 

CAMEROTA: You are still angry about the treatment of Judge Garland. Understandably. You and your colleagues are upset about how he was frozen out of a vote. What can you do? The Republicans say in terms of Gorsuch, they are willing to go nuclear to get him in. 

MERKLEY: It takes 50 members of the Senate and Vice President to go there. We don't know they have all of those votes. There may be principled individuals among the Republicans to stand up and vote for the integrity of the Senate. 

CAMEROTA: Do you have any indication from your Republican colleagues? 

MERKLEY: Code of silence is under way. We do not know where each individual will end up on this. 

CAMEROTA:  About the nuclear option, is that where we're headed? 

MERKLEY: In regard to the nuclear option is 51 votes to change the interpretation of the rules. Change to a simple majority to close debate. We don't know if there are 51 Republicans who will say yes. Let's destroy the integrity of the senate with this vote. 

CAMEROTA:  What would that mean if this is where this is headed and that is invoked, what does that mean for the future? 

MERKLEY: This process would mean two things. If one court seat is stolen from one president to the other, the temptation will be forevermore. It makes it look like another elected political position. The second is if this process goes through, every 5-4 decision will be one we will look at and say it is not legitimate. That Supreme Court justice really wasn't legitimate. If we change to a simple majority, what it means with the next president? They may be tempted to go further left or right outside of the mainstream. Obama went down the middle. Unfortunately, President Trump has not. He has gone way outside the mainstream. That's really what the supermajority is intended to prevent. 

CAMEROTA: There’s a lot at stake for both sides.  Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks so much for being on New Day.

MERKLEY: You’re welcome. Great to be with you, Alisyn.