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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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 724214

Reported Deaths: 13363
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion989071736
Lake53172962
Allen40223675
Hamilton35354408
St. Joseph35270550
Elkhart28228437
Tippecanoe22297217
Vanderburgh22231396
Porter18560304
Johnson17832376
Hendricks17098313
Clark12897191
Madison12519339
Vigo12379244
Monroe11811168
LaPorte11691210
Delaware10571185
Howard9823215
Kosciusko9347117
Hancock8204139
Bartholomew8036155
Warrick7754155
Floyd7630176
Wayne7002198
Grant6986174
Boone6652101
Morgan6529139
Dubois6139117
Marshall5954111
Dearborn577177
Cass5769105
Henry5671102
Noble555783
Jackson499672
Shelby488196
Lawrence4470120
Gibson433791
Harrison432972
Clinton426353
DeKalb423284
Montgomery423088
Whitley392739
Huntington386380
Steuben381057
Miami379165
Knox370990
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Ripley338370
Jefferson328481
White312254
Daviess294399
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Decatur282992
Fayette278362
Greene276085
Posey270733
Scott264453
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Clay258945
Randolph239581
Washington239131
Spencer230431
Jennings228848
Starke213252
Fountain211846
Sullivan210442
Owen195856
Fulton194240
Jay190429
Carroll187820
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Rush172625
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Pike132634
Pulaski115945
Newton106734
Brown101441
Crawford99014
Benton98114
Martin87415
Warren80515
Switzerland7808
Union70610
Ohio56211
Unassigned0413

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1077284

Reported Deaths: 19344
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1251861392
Cuyahoga1110942107
Hamilton796611200
Montgomery511561012
Summit46842933
Lucas41780782
Butler38228580
Stark32099907
Lorain24828480
Warren24214297
Mahoning21403586
Lake20518368
Clermont19704238
Delaware18463131
Licking16373210
Fairfield16083199
Trumbull15966466
Medina15192262
Greene14991244
Clark13927297
Wood13020188
Portage12772201
Allen11564231
Richland11277198
Miami10652215
Muskingum8783132
Wayne8738210
Columbiana8735229
Pickaway8527121
Marion8494135
Tuscarawas8459243
Erie7831154
Hancock6880126
Ross6821152
Ashtabula6756169
Geauga6659148
Scioto6385101
Belmont5828167
Union569347
Lawrence5536102
Jefferson5481151
Huron5409119
Darke5333122
Sandusky5316120
Seneca5248121
Athens518058
Washington5137109
Auglaize487084
Mercer479085
Shelby466893
Knox4472110
Madison434761
Putnam4260100
Ashland420989
Fulton419869
Defiance416597
Crawford3954106
Brown391857
Logan380676
Preble378298
Clinton369861
Ottawa365779
Highland352761
Williams337075
Champaign329258
Guernsey314453
Jackson311651
Perry294250
Morrow283639
Fayette280649
Hardin269864
Henry267766
Coshocton263858
Holmes2587101
Van Wert242463
Pike237233
Adams235852
Gallia235148
Wyandot230654
Hocking214662
Carroll190947
Paulding171140
Meigs144339
Noble133437
Monroe130642
Morgan108223
Harrison107337
Vinton82015
Unassigned02
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