As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, prepares for Judge Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court, he said he's expecting to repeat the process before 2020.
Asked whose seat he expected to open before the next presidential election, Grassley responded, "Oh, I wouldn't answer that. If I answered for some it'd be like hoping they die." At the end of Trump's four-year term, three justices will be older than the life expectancy of U.S. residents. Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy would be older than 78, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be 87.
Fresh off a lunch meeting with President Trump and Senate Democrats on Gorsuch's high court nomination and other topics last week, Grassley in an interview with the Washington Examiner expressed confidence that Gorsuch would be swiftly confirmed. Grassley said he did not detect any Republican opposition to Gorsuch and predicted a confirmation with "a lot more than a majority but significant opposition."
Conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents have routinely faced staunch opposition. Chief Justice John Roberts was confirmed in 2005 by a 78-22 vote that included the support of 22 Democrats, but the Supreme Court's more conservative members have faced bigger battles. Justice Samuel Alito, another President George W. Bush appointee, was confirmed in 2006 by a 58-42 vote, and Thomas, a President George H.W. Bush appointee, was narrowly confirmed in 1991 by a 52-48 vote.
After meeting with Gorsuch in private, Grassley said he thinks Senate Democrats will find it difficult to oppose the nomination if they speak with him, too. Grassley told the Washington Examiner he thought Gorsuch would "definitely" be a less deferential justice than Judge Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's failed high court nominee, would have been, pointing to Garland's deference to regulators as evidence of that belief.
Grassley said he believes support from some liberals should assure Democrats that Gorsuch is the right man for the job.
"This guy is mainstream," Grassley said, explaining his pitch to get Democratic colleagues on Gorsuch's side. "This guy has the qualifications that it takes to serve on the Supreme Court. ... One that isn't as easy to understand why she said it, but Rachel Maddow said that he's in the mainstream. Well, if she sees him in the mainstream, every Democrat ought to be voting for him."
A vote on Gorsuch's confirmation may not come for quite some time, but Grassley said his committee is on target to begin hearings on Gorsuch's nomination next month. The Iowa senator said he is preparing for three days of hearings, and Gorsuch will be present for the first two days.
The first day of the hearings will involve Gorsuch sitting and listening to Judiciary Committee members without making any remarks. On the second day, Gorsuch will face a full day of questions that will last "as long as it takes." The third and final day would be for outside witnesses to testify about him.
Gorsuch submitted a completed Judiciary Committee questionnaire last weekend that provides additional information about his background and qualifications. A completed questionnaire paves the way for Grassley to begin scheduling the confirmation hearings. While senators on both sides of the aisle are continuing to meet with Gorsuch this week, several Democrats have already publicly stated their intention to oppose Gorsuch's confirmation.