Flashback: Durbin Supported Gorsuch as Circuit Judge Before Joining Dem Filibuster Against SCOTUS Nomination

March 28, 2017

Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) announced Tuesday that he will join fellow Democrats in filibustering Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, despite in 2006 supporting Gorsuch to become a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to voice his opposition to Gorsuch's nomination.

"He did not earn my vote," Durbin reportedly said. "I'll vote no when his nomination comes before the committee next week. I will vote no on cloture, and I'll oppose his nomination on the Senate on the Senate floor."

He reiterated his floor comments via Twitter.

At least 21 other Senate Democrats have pledged to vote against Gorsuch as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) rallies support to filibuster the judge's nomination.

Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee to the high court, spent last week going through severals hours of testimony during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee as they asked him questions about previous rulings and his judicial philosophy.

Durbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee, appeared to be impressed by Gorsuch's performance, calling the judge "very gifted" last week.

"Well, of course, he's very gifted," Durbin said of Gorsuch on CNN. "He has a great background in services, judge. And very smooth, and very folksy and personable in the witness chair."

Durbin also previously voted to confirm Gorsuch to be a federal Circuit Court judge. The Illinois Democrat appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" last month, when he was asked by co-host Willie Geist whether he supported Gorsuch in 2006.

"Do I have it right that you voted 'aye' on the voice vote in 2006 when Gorsuch was up for the federal appeals court," Geist asked.

"Good question, Willie. I just don't remember, to be honest with you," Durbin responded. "On voice votes, you don't make much of a note of it and it's possible–I don't believe there was a lot of controversy surrounding it, but let me tell you he's moving from triple-A ball to the big leagues here."

Geist cited the congressional record to point out that Durbin did support Gorsuch.

"The congressional record shows you did vote in favor–it was a unanimous vote, but has something changed in your view of Gorsuch since 2006 when you did vote 'aye' for him?" Geist asked

"No," Durbin said.

Not a single Senate Democrat voiced an objection to Gorsuch in 2006, when then-President George W. Bush nominated him to the Colorado-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Eleven years later, Democrats are lining up behind Schumer's call to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination, including Durbin.

Durbin's confirmation that he will join the filibuster appears to contradict his statement last week during the confirmation hearing that Gorsuch deserves "a respectful hearing and a vote."

"The Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee will extend to you a courtesy which Senate Republicans denied to Judge [Merrick] Garland: a respectful hearing and a vote," Durbin said to Gorsuch, referring to former President Obama's Supreme Court pick who did not get a hearing.

Liberal groups have been mobilizing against Gorsuch for several weeks, putting pressure on Senate Democrats to oppose his nomination, Politico reported last week.

The People's Defense, a coalition of more than a dozen progressive organizations, is launching the six-figure digital ad campaign on Tuesday. An example of one ad, aimed at Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), calls President Donald Trump's first Supreme Court nominee "unfit" for the vacancy and urges people to flood Casey's office with phone calls against Gorsuch's nomination.

"Neil Gorsuch's nomination is a top concern for tens of millions of Americans," said Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which is leading the anti-Gorsuch coalition. "After the opening of the hearings today, Senate Democrats should be clear that those Americans are depending on them to not just oppose Neil Gorsuch and the danger he poses, but to filibuster his nomination."

Other progressive groups involved in the campaign include Indivisible, American Federation of Teachers, Center for American Progress Action Fund, CREDO Action, End Citizens United, EveryVoice, Civic Action, People for the American Way, Planned Parenthood, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Service Employees International Union, and Stand Up America. The umbrella group has been increasingly vocal about their frustration with Senate Democrats, who they say have not fought hard enough against Gorsuch's nomination.

It is unclear what caused Durbin to change his stance on Gorsuch getting a vote in the Senate, although he charged Tuesday on the Senate floor that the judge has backed large corporations over employees and ruled against disabled children in past cases.