Today is the first day in what might be a long process to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. This is just the first day in his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today’s hearing, which starts at 11 a.m. Eastern, might last until 5 p.m. Eastern today. (This is how long C-SPAN has blocked out for television coverage.) However, when the hearing ends today, it will just be the beginning.
Gorsuch will be present today, but the day will consist mostly of opening remarks from Gorsuch and the 20 senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Each opening remark is not supposed to last longer than 10 minutes.
Tomorrow, on Tuesday, March 21, Gorsuch’s testimony will begin. The entire hearing process is expected to last approximately three to four days. Day three will have testimony from outside witnesses, and day two will focus on questions asked of Gorsuch directly.
Democrats have said they want a 60-vote threshold to confirm Gorsuch, meaning that eight Democrats will need to vote for him, CBS News reported. The process might take a little longer if Democrats decide to filibuster, although McConnell could likely use a majority vote to forbid filibustering of Supreme Court nominees, and thus speed up the process.
To give you an idea of how the process typically works, here’s how long some of the more recent, longer Supreme Court confirmation hearings have lasted, over a period of days:
- John G. Roberts, Jr. in 2005: 20 hours
- Stephen G. Breyer in 1994: 20 hours
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993: 20 hours
- Clarence Thomas in 1991: 25 hours
One of the longer hearings was for Robert Bork in 1987, lasting 30 hours, and he was ultimately not confirmed.
The last justice to be confirmed was Elena Kagan in 2010.
After the questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the entire Senate debates and votes on the nomination, which can be confirmed by simple majority (unless a filibuster threat adds the requirement of a supermajority). The last time a nominee was rejected was in 1987 when Bork was rejected during a full vote of the Senate.