Grassley, Feinstein face pressure on Gorsuch confirmation hearings

By Jennifer Steinhauer / New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — She is a female trailblazer in a Senate where women remain a minority, a formal and wealthy institutionalist from one of the nation’s most liberal states whose partisanship is at times eclipsed by propriety.

He is a plain-spoken Midwesterner who has long prided himself on his tough-mindedness with officials from both parties in Washington and a compulsive availability to voters back home.

What neither Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., nor Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has is a law degree. Yet as the highest-ranking Democrat and the chairman on the Senate Judiciary Committee, they will preside over the hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, that begin Monday.

Feinstein and Grassley, both 83, will face tremendous pressure from their respective parties to deliver a vindication of their views not just of Gorsuch’s worthiness to serve on the court but also of the process leading him there.

Liberal activists remain bitter about Grassley’s role in preventing even a beginning to the confirmation process of Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago.

Many are looking to Feinstein to shoulder the weight of that political burden, and to rigorously challenge Gorsuch on his constitutional views.

“This is an important process that needs to be carried out with the kind of dignity and perseverance that it warrants,” Feinstein said.

“Because this is so pivotal, as the decisive vote on the court, this is a huge responsibility. This is complicated by what came before, which was the Republican treatment of Merrick Garland, which I found very disagreeable and unprecedented.”

Grassley’s role is strategically and procedurally easier: It is up to him to make Gorsuch’s week on Capitol Hill painless even in the face of tough questioning from Democrats.

“His approach to the hearing will likely mirror what we have seen in recent weeks back here,” Matt Strawn, a former chairman of Iowa’s Republican Party, said of Grassley. “He has given Iowans every opportunity to weigh in on town hall meetings. There is a reason he is our longest-serving public servant here, because he listens and is respectful even if he disagrees with someone.”

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