Updated at 9:03 p.m. ET
On the second day of his confirmation hearings to be a Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch seemed eager to be judged on his own merits. But three figures loomed over the proceedings—the two jurists he’s being closely evaluated against, and the president who’s injected controversy into his nomination.
One is Antonin Scalia, the longtime conservative jurist who Gorsuch hopes to replace on the U.S. Supreme Court. President Trump vowed during the campaign to nominate a jurist “in the mold” of Scalia—a pledge that thrilled conservatives as much as it worried liberals.
But attempts by the Democratic senators on Tuesday to reveal new dimensions of Gorsuch’s ideological beliefs were largely unsuccessful. The 49-year-old federal appellate judge from Colorado declined to offer his views on any issues that could come before the Court. Giving any forecasts or hints, he repeatedly told the committee’s members, would rob future litigants of an impartial arbiter and violate his oath of judicial ethics.
That didn’t stop Democrats from trying. California Senator Dianne Feinstein inquired multiple times about his views on abortion rights and whether he’d uphold Roe v. Wade if confirmed. “It’s a precedent of the United States Supreme Court,” he replied, offering a purely textbook description of the case without a hint of interpretation. My colleague Emma Green noted last month that Gorsuch’s lack of prior writings about abortion rights have made him something of a Rorschach test on the issue for all sides; nothing he said during Tuesday’s hearing will change that.