After a tumultuous week on Capitol Hill, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, has some advice for his colleagues: “Turn the temperature down a little bit.”
Daines met one on one with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch this morning while Gorsuch was in the spotlight for telling Sen. Richard Blumenthal that President Donald Trump’s attacks on the judiciary are “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Daines told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on this week’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast that he came away from the meeting with complete confidence in Gorsuch’s ability to be an independent judge, and said that Gorsuch’s conversation with Blumenthal doesn’t rattle him a bit.
“It tells me this guy’s honest … he’s not afraid to say what he thinks,” Daines said. “Isn’t that what we want in a Supreme Court justice?”
This morning, Trump sent out a tweet suggesting that Blumenthal misrepresented Gorsuch’s words. But Daines said Trump’s Twitter habits didn’t come up in the conversation.
“We didn’t talk about who’s tweeting what,” Daines said. “I focused more on his philosophies, his view of the Constitution, his view … around the appropriate role of the federal government, individual rights.”
Daines said the way Gorsuch handled his time in the hot seat was impressive, adding that the media attention only helps his chances of reaching the Supreme Court. “He stands by his word. That is the kind of person I’d like to see on the bench.”
However, he doesn’t think Trump’s reaction reflects poorly on the president either.
“We have a president that moves at the speed of business, not at the speed of government,” Daines said. “He doesn’t change his colors depending on the situation.”
Earlier this week, Daines was in the eye of another political storm. He presided over the Senate session on Tuesday evening when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, used an old Senate rule known as Rule XIX to spark a vote to formally silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, who was reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King.
The rule forbids senators from attributing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” McConnell’s objection argued that Warren reading King’s letter and a statement from Ted Kennedy on the floor were unsuitable for Senate debate, and thus fit the bill for prohibition under Rule XIX.
Daines said that while King’s letter is getting the most attention, it was Warren’s reading of Kennedy’s words that started triggering the rule. He also said that he did not know McConnell would interject before he did.
“There wasn’t some kind of political calculation looking at it,” Daines said. “Rule XIX frankly is pretty clear. … It didn’t matter if it was a man or a woman, if it was a Democrat or a Republican … at some point I think the rules need to apply.”
Ultimately, Daines said all members of government — whether in the executive, legislative or judicial branch — need to be accountable for the way they conduct themselves.
“I think there should be a call to turn the temperature down a little bit,” Daines said. “To restore civility and statesmanship, no matter what you believe in. … When somebody goes low, both sides ought to go high.”