Democrats lose top fighter against Trump's judicial nominees

Democratic Sen. Al Franken's ...

Posted: Dec 7, 2017 9:26 PM
Updated: Dec 7, 2017 9:26 PM

Democratic Sen. Al Franken's grilling of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in the so-dubbed "frozen trucker" case may have been the most replayed moment of the televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last March.

It has drawn hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, and Gorsuch, a sitting judge since April, sarcastically recalled the controversy months later as an episode that made it look like "I just hate truckers."

Franken was a key Democratic voice against Trump nominees

He fought with Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch earlier this year

Franken announced his resignation Thursday

Franken's bitter resignation speech on Thursday because of sexual harassment allegations leaves more than an open seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Democrats already have few tools to fight Republican President Donald Trump's lifetime-appointments to the federal bench.

A showman by training, former comedian Franken could distill and dramatize the law, put a witness on the defensive, and represent the opposition in a way that captured publicity. In the stuffy world of judicial nominations, Franken served the Democratic cause as no other ordinary Judiciary Committee member could.

He was a relentless inquisitor, combining a flair for the dramatic with down-home folksiness. Critics found him more of a tormentor, and Gorsuch in March bristled at his portrayal of the nominee's views.

More recently, Franken rankled the GOP majority by refusing to endorse a home-state nominee, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, for a US appeals court position. In the past, when a senator withheld a so-called "blue-slip" endorsement, the prerogative was honored. Shortly after the first public allegation was made against Franken last month, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, spurned Franken's objection and said he would proceed with a hearing on Stras. Trump has said Stras would be a short-lister for any Supreme Court opening.

The Republican majority already held a powerful hand to push through Trump's judicial nominees. Four years ago, the Senate, then controlled by Democrats, changed longstanding filibuster rules so that judicial nominees could be put to a vote with a simple majority; prior practice had required a supermajority of 60 votes to cut off debate. With current their 52-48 majority, Republicans are able to approve Trump's nominees on their own schedule along party lines.

Democrats object to Grassley's move on judicial nominee blue slips

Case of the frozen trucker

Franken appeared to relish his Judiciary Committee platform. Perhaps his most memorable public remarks came over Gorsuch's most sensationalized case from tenure on the Denver-based US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

It involved a trucker, Alphonse Maddin, whose trailer had broken down in subzero temperatures. The brakes had frozen, and after becoming numb in the cold, Maddin unhitched the rig and left briefly to get warm. His employer, TransAm Trucking, fired him for leaving the trailer.

As Maddin protested the dismissal, a US appeals court majority sided with the trucker and his assertion that he was covered by federal worker-safety law. Gorsuch dissented, saying the relevant statute forbade Maddin from leaving behind the rig.

When Gorsuch appeared before the Judiciary Committee in March as Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Franken was ready. After laying out the case with cinematic detail (the sub-zero cold, the driver's likely hypothermia, the supervisor's order to just wait), Franken mocked Gorsuch's dissenting view. He pressed Gorsuch on what he would have done. The nominee resisted answering in any personal vein.

"What would you have done?" Franken persisted. "I'm asking you a question. Please answer."

"Senator, I don't know," Gorsuch said. "I wasn't in the man's shoes."

Franken deemed it "absurd" that a judge would declare a company rightfully fired a trucker for trying to ensure the safety of himself and others on the road.

"Now I had a career in identifying absurdity," the former "Saturday Night Live" performer said. "And I know it when I see it. And it makes me question your judgment."

In April, Gorsuch won Senate confirmation, with a vote along partisan lines, and he apparently had the last word at an annual dinner of the Federalist Society in November.

Describing his limited judicial role in the interpretation of federal law, Gorsuch, according to news reports, referred to three principles: "One, the law is telling me to do something really, really stupid. Two, the law is constitutional and I have no choice but to do that really stupid thing the law requires. And three, when it's done, everyone who's not a lawyer is going to think I just hate truckers."

Terre Haute
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 82°
Robinson
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 80°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 80°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 75°
Casey
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 81°
Brazil
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 82°
Marshall
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 82°
Sunny and warm!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Food vendors at Summer Fest take extra precautions to keep you safe

Image

Execution day, protesting information

Image

Execution day, a live look hours before the execution

Image

Monday: Mostly sunny with average temperatures. High: 86°

Image

Federal Executions Resuming

Image

TH Women's City Golf Championship

Image

Sunday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Ryan Lieberman

Image

Zoe Stewart

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 155048

Reported Deaths: 7388
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook955574725
Lake10378428
DuPage9719486
Kane8107281
Will7278326
Winnebago3169106
St. Clair2304144
McHenry2266102
Kankakee143166
Madison119870
Rock Island119430
Unassigned1185201
Kendall106323
Champaign104017
Peoria66630
DeKalb64220
Boone63721
Sangamon53133
Jackson35619
McLean32215
Randolph3157
Ogle3144
Stephenson2856
LaSalle25917
Macon25322
Clinton24616
Union21219
Whiteside21215
Grundy1945
Coles19117
Iroquois1755
Tazewell1758
Knox1700
Adams1691
Williamson1614
Monroe15913
Warren1490
Cass1409
Morgan1344
Henry1161
Jefferson11417
McDonough10815
Lee1072
Vermilion892
Pulaski840
Marion770
Montgomery741
Macoupin693
Douglas610
Perry611
Jo Daviess551
Livingston552
Christian514
Woodford482
Jasper477
Franklin460
Jersey431
Ford421
Clark410
Bureau372
Menard320
Effingham311
Cumberland290
Mercer290
Johnson260
Alexander250
Washington250
Fayette243
Mason240
Moultrie240
Wabash230
Bond222
Carroll212
Hancock211
Logan210
Piatt210
Crawford200
Shelby201
Edgar190
Wayne191
De Witt180
Saline170
Fulton160
Massac160
Schuyler130
Lawrence120
Marshall120
Brown100
White100
Greene90
Richland90
Henderson80
Hamilton70
Pike70
Gallatin60
Stark60
Clay50
Edwards50
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 51612

Reported Deaths: 2760
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12074693
Lake5650249
Elkhart361860
Allen2952134
St. Joseph214869
Hamilton1708101
Cass16459
Hendricks1466100
Johnson1345118
Porter84038
Tippecanoe7799
Vanderburgh7686
Clark71144
Madison67864
LaPorte62328
Howard60758
Bartholomew60145
Kosciusko5824
Marshall5579
Noble52028
Boone49144
LaGrange48610
Jackson4783
Delaware47552
Hancock46836
Shelby45925
Floyd41444
Monroe34828
Morgan34531
Grant32226
Dubois3096
Montgomery29820
Henry29618
Clinton2903
White27610
Dearborn26523
Warrick26129
Vigo2588
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Harrison21822
Greene19632
Miami1942
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1659
Wayne1586
Daviess15117
Perry14910
Steuben1382
Orange13723
Jasper1362
Ripley1347
Franklin1288
Gibson1242
Wabash1163
Carroll1142
Starke1083
Whitley1076
Fayette1067
Newton10110
Huntington942
Jefferson872
Wells821
Randolph804
Fulton731
Jay720
Knox710
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush623
Posey610
Spencer571
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain362
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike120
Unassigned0193