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Stabenow, Peters oppose Gorsuch for high court

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters said Tuesday they will oppose Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and indicated they would vote to block an up-or-down Senate vote on the Colorado judge.

“After reviewing Judge Gorsuch's rulings, it is clear that he has a long record of siding with special interests and institutions instead of hard-working Americans. And, therefore, in my judgment, he does not meet this standard of balance and impartiality,” Stabenow said in a statement.

“After carefully reviewing his record and listening to his testimony last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have concluded that supporting the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court is not in the best interests of the people of Michigan whom I am proud to represent.”

Peters is concerned that Gorsuch’s rulings demonstrate a belief that corporations have greater rights than individuals.

“Whether it is ruling against children who want an equal opportunity to get a quality education or women who want access to health care, Judge Gorsuch often fails to take into account the human face behind each case,” Peters said in a statement.

“Serving on the U.S. Supreme Court requires more than education and experience, and I am extremely concerned that Judge Gorsuch’s judicial approach is out of step with mainstream American values. After careful consideration of Judge Gorsuch’s comments and his record, I cannot support his nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court.”

Peters said Gorsuch also has not acknowledged the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that “corrupted our government by opening the floodgates for special interest money to pour into our elections.”

Stabenow noted that Gorsuch, while serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, had ruled against Alphonse Maddin, a Michigan truck driver who was fired after leaving his trailer at the roadside when it broke down on a freezing night.

“When Mr. Maddin sued, Judge Gorsuch disagreed with six other judges' rulings and reached the conclusion that Mr. Maddin should have risked his life to follow company orders, even though Mr. Maddin protected his cargo from loss and completed his assignment,” Stabenow said.

In testimony before a Senate committee, Gorsuch defended the decision, saying it isn’t his job to write the law but to apply it.

“This is one of those you take home at night. The law said, the man is protected and can’t be fired if he refuses to operate an unsafe vehicle. The facts of the case, at least as I understood them, was that Mr. Maddin chose to operate his vehicle, to drive away, and therefore wasn’t protected by the law,” Gorsuch said.

“If Congress passes a law saying the trucker in those circumstances gets to choose how to operate his vehicle, I’ll be the first in line to enforce it.”

Stabenow also highlighted a 2008 ruling by Gorsuch against the parent of an autistic boy who sought an education to meet his special needs. During Gorsuch's confirmation hearing, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that disabled students are entitled to more protections than Gorsuch had found to be necessary, Stabenow said.

Another case she noted involved a ruling by Gorsuch in favor of “the rights of corporations over the rights of women to have access to health care,” Stabenow said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee attacked Stabenow’s filibuster decision as being “a rubber stamp for radical Democratic leadership.”

“Debbie Stabenow is clearly more interested in playing petty partisan games than representing Michiganders,” said Katie Martin, a committee spokeswoman. “Voters will remember Stabenow siding with the liberal elite in Washington over them when they head to the polls in 2018.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has indicated that Democrats intend to filibuster Gorsuch, denying him the 60 votes needed to advance his nomination.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has hinted that he could turn to the “nuclear option” to alter Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination April 3.