Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said March 21 that he would stay independent from President Donald Trump, who nominated him to the high court. He said that if Trump had asked him to promise to overturn landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, Gorsuch would have "walked out the door."
Gorsuch, 49, a judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, said during his second day of hearings at the Senate Judicial Committee that as a Supreme Court justice, he would maintain independence from Trump. The committee asked him questions regarding his views on abortion, gun rights and torture, New York Daily News reports.
When asked by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina whether Trump had explicitly asked Gorsuch if he would repeal Roe v. Wade, which gives women in America the right to have an abortion, Gorsuch answered that he had not promised certain rulings to anyone.
"Senator, I would have walked out the door," Gorsuch reportedly said. "I have offered no promises on how I'd rule in any case to anyone."
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"I don't think it's appropriate for a judge to do so, no matter who's asking," he added.
"I have no difficulty ruling for or against any party, based upon what the law or facts in any particular case require," Gorsuch said. "There's no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country."
Gorsuch also stressed the importance of following precedents in legal cases. The nominee said that judges need to "start with a heavy, heavy presumption in favor of precedent in our system."
"I would tell you that Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, is the precedent of the United States Supreme Court," said Gorsuch, though he added that "all of the other factors that go into analyzing precedent have to be considered," as well.
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Gorsuch was also asked about waterboarding, the banned interrogation technique which the Supreme Court previously ruled to be torture, and which Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive.
"No man is above the law," Gorsuch responded. "When I became a judge, they gave me a gavel, not a rubber stamp."
"A good judge doesn't give a whit about politics or the political implications of his or her decision, [and] decides where the law takes him or her fearlessly," Gorsuch said, according to Reuters.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the senior Democrat on the committee, asked Gorsuch, "How can we have confidence in you that you won't just be for the big corporations, that you will be for the little man?"
Gorsuch later answered a similar question from Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, saying, "A judge is there to make sure every person, poor or rich, mighty or meek, gets equal protection of the law."
Gorsuch's hearing could last for up to four days, with the March 21 hearing lasting up to 10 hours, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee's Republican chairman. The committee is likely to vote on Gorsuch's nomination on April 3.