Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Leahy Opposes Plan To Make It Easier To Confirm U.S. Supreme Court Nominees

J. Scott Applewhite
Senator Patrick Leahy, seen here with California Senator Diane Feinstein, says it's critical for the Supreme Court to remain as an independent branch of government.

Sen. Patrick Leahy is calling for thorough review of President Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and he says the operations of the Senate will be severely hurt if Republican leaders decide to change the rules to make it easier to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch.

As a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Leahy has a leadership role on the panel. He says he plans to review every decision and every article that Judge Gorsuch has written during his judicial career.

Leahy says it's critical for the nominee to be an independent voice on the court, and he has concerns that this might not happen.

“The Court could become a rubber stamp to some of the ultra-right groups. It already has some who are like that,” said Leahy. ”If that happens, the whole country suffers." 

Right now it takes 60 votes in the Senate to confirm a Supreme Court justice. Republican leader Mitch McConnell is considering a plan to change the rules to require only a simple majority — it's known as the "nuclear option."

Leahy says it will be a big mistake if McConnell uses this strategy.

“It certainly would diminish the value of the advise and consent process ... I think it would bring about a case where a president of either party could end up politicizing the Supreme Court,” said Leahy. “None of us benefit from that."

"The Court could become a rubber stamp to some of the ultra-right groups. It already has some who are like that. If that happens, the whole country suffers." — Sen. Patrick Leahy

Speaking on the Senate floor, Leahy said the president's decision to make the announcement on primetime TV tarnished the dignity of the Court.

"His announcement yesterday was like he was announcing the winner of a game show. 'I brought in these two people and now here's the winner!' We're talking about the U.S. Supreme Court. Treat it with the respect that it deserves."

Sen. Bernie Sanders was not available for comment. In a written statement, he said, "It is imperative that a new justice be prepared to defend the rights of all Americans, not just the wealthy and large corporations."

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
Latest Stories