Capital beat: Ayotte slams Dems over obstruction in supreme court process

  • Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (center) arrives on Capitol Hill with former New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte last month. Ayotte slammed Democrats on Friday for “blocking” the nomination process. AP

Monitor staff
Saturday, April 01, 2017

Republican Kelly Ayotte spent the better part of last year explaining why she opposed confirmation hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court pick. Now, she is accusing Senate Democrats of obstructing the process for Trump’s nominee by not holding an “up-or-down vote.”

“They are just unfortunately blocking the process,” Ayotte said on a press call Friday.

Trump tapped Ayotte – who famously withdrew her support for the Republican nominee ahead of the election – to help usher Judge Neil Gorsuch through the confirmation process. It’s looking rocky ahead.

While Gorsuch’s nomination is expected to come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate this week, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is lining up votes to try and block him, according to national reports.

At least two Democrats, Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, have indicated they support Gorsuch, but that’s far fewer than the eight needed to break a filibuster.

Despite Ayotte’s New Hampshire ties, both the state’s U.S. senators came out against the federal appeals court judge last week. Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan cited concern with Gorsuch’s voting record on women’s reproductive rights and siding with corporations on high-profile cases.

In her statement, Shaheen pointed to Republicans’ refusal last year to hold hearings on Obama nominee Merrick Garland. 

“Despite this unprecedented obstruction by the Republican majority, I remain committed to upholding the constitution’s instruction to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations,” she said. 

In the race against Hassan, Democrats sought to hit Ayotte at every turn over the Supreme Court issue. At least one poll, early on in the contest, found Ayotte’s stance against hearings on a Supreme Court nominee could hurt her re-election chances. The Republican ultimately lost a second term by a razor-thin margin. 

Asked by a reporter whether her stance then is in conflict with her position now, Ayotte said no. 

“As I made clear in my election, we wanted the people of this country to weigh in by whom they chose as president, that has happened,” she said. “Had Hillary Clinton succeeded in winning, I would have allowed her nominee an up-or-down vote.”

Whether that’s the case, we’ll never know.

D.C. state of mind

A group of right-wing U.S. representatives helped sink health care reform in Washington D.C.. And a band of Republicans in the State House are hoping to do the same with the state budget bill.

“It’s a trainwreck,” said Rep. JR Hoell, a Republican who plans to oppose the spending plan crafted by House budget writers. “It spends way too much money.”

It’s unclear how many Republicans may vote against the budget document. The party narrowly controls the House, meaning if more than 25 Republicans defect and all Democrats oppose the spending plan, it could fail.

While House Speaker Shawn Jasper said that’s always a concern, he doesn’t seem too worried. Leadership began whipping votes last week and he expects Gov. Chris Sununu to chip in. 

“I hope Republicans will recognize, and some Democrats, this is a process and at the end of the day just because you want something doesn’t mean you are going to get it,” he said. 

Russia watch

Investigations over Russian election meddling continue in Washington D.C., but any action in New Hampshire is looking unlikely. The Senate tabled a bill last week to investigate whether the state should study banning the sale of Russian liquor. 

Democratic Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn pitched the idea last fall, which generated lots of chatter on social media.

Woodburn lamented the bill’s loss in a statement. “This is not a matter of party politics: foreign influence in our democratic process is a grave threat to our security, our electoral process and the sanctity of our Constitution.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)