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."
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."