As showdown over confirmation vote looms, Neil Gorsuch accused of plagiarism

DENVER – As tension mounts over the possibility of a filibuster and drastic changes to Senate rules over the confirmation vote of Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Colorado appeals court judge faces new plagiarism accusations.

Politico reports that a near-300-word passage from Gorsuch’s 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” is nearly identical to a passage from a 1984 Indiana Law Journal article.

It also reports that Gorsuch “borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them” in other parts of his book and in a 2000 academic article he wrote.

The report says that Gorsuch did not attribute the passages to the Indiana Law Journal’s author,

Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, but instead sourced the same publications and cases as she used in her paper.

Kuzma, who is now an Indiana deputy attorney general, issued a statement through Gorsuch’s handlers saying she did “not see any issue here, even though the language is similar.”

But at least two academic and legal experts told Politico that the similarities in the publications constitute plagiarism. But the White House pushed back staunchly against those claims Tuesday.

“This false attack has been strongly refuted by highly-regarded academic experts, including those who reviewed, professionally examined, and edited Judge Gorsuch’s scholarly writings, and even the author of the main piece cited in the false attack,” White House spokesman Steven Cheung told the publication. “There is only one explanation for this baseless, last-second smear of Judge Gorsuch: those desperate to justify the unprecedented filibuster of a well-qualified and mainstream nominee to the Supreme Court.”

But how much effect the claims truly have on the vote to confirm Gorsuch is yet unknown.

Forty-four Democrats have already said they will either filibuster the vote and/or vote against Gorsuch’s confirmation.

Three Democrats have said they will vote for Gorsuch, and Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet has said he opposes a filibuster of the vote, as well as the “nuclear option” Republicans could use in the event of a sustained Democratic filibuster.

But still Wednesday, Bennet was not saying how he would vote.

Supreme Court nominees need to garner 60 Senate votes to be confirmed. With all 52 Republicans on board to support Gorsuch and the three Democrats, that brings them to 55 votes.

Democrats are expected to filibuster, to which Republicans could respond by invoking the so-called “nuclear option” that would change Senate rules so Supreme Court nominees would only need a simple majority of 51 votes to be confirmed.

Democrats last used the nuclear option in 2013 in order to confirm several Obama-era executive branch nominations that had been stalled by Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he supports the use of the nuclear option, but Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, called the idea “stupid,” saying it would set a bad precedent for future proceedings in the Senate because it could set a slippery slope for the option to be invoked for legislation as well.

But Democrats have pushed back over Republican complaints over the impending filibuster, saying that they set the stage for the showdown when many Republican senators failed to even hold hearings or meetings with President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

"I cannot believe he can stand here on the floor of the United States Senate and with a straight face say that Democrats are launching the first partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after McConnell spoke. "What the majority leader did to Merrick Garland by denying him even a hearing and a vote is even worse than a filibuster."

An Oregon senator spoke all night in opposition to Gorsuch Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Gorsuch, 49, has drawn praise from conservatives for many of his decisions made both on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and before. They are pleased with his states-first stance and past writings that the court and law systems were too complex.

But that anti-federalist approach also extends into cases in which Gorsuch’s decisions might raise eyebrows for conservatives.

He has said he has concerns about government searches and seizures, including in the case of a teenage student from Albuquerque, New Mexico who was arrested for burping in a classroom, in which Gorsuch said there was a difference "between childish pranks and more seriously disruptive behaviors."

But Democrats say they are displeased with decisions they say favor industry and corporations over workers, and others they say showed him favoring religious freedom as a constitutional right upheld by other court cases.

The showdown between Democrats and Republicans is expected to start Thursday, and a final vote on Gorsuch is expected Friday.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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