President nominates jurist described by GOP senator as ‘best person imaginable’ to replace Scalia.
President Donald Trump picked Neil Gorsuch, a federal jurist, to be the ninth Supreme Court justice Tuesday.
Trump made the announcement at an 8 p.m. news conference with Gorsuch in the White House.
“I think this pick is the best person imaginable to bring people together.”
If confirmed, Gorsuch would replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died at a Texas ranch almost a year ago, on Feb. 13. Gorsuch will be the key fifth vote for conservatives on the nine-member court.
What remains now is whether the Democrats will seek to stop Gorsuch via filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Only minutes after Trump announced Gorsuch, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the minority leader, suggested he would oppose the president’s nominee.
But the Republicans, who control the Senate, rallied immediately around the soft-spoken Coloradoan, although no Republican senator that LifeZette spoke to at the White House said they were ready to nuke the filibuster, which is the one tool Democrats could use to end the nomination.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), speaking to LifeZette after the announcement. “I think this pick is the best person imaginable to bring people together.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said being mad about the GOP blocking President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland is not reason enough for Democrats to oppose Gorsuch. But Graham also told LifeZette it would be a “huge mistake” to get rid of the filibuster rule on Supreme Court nominees.
Gorsuch, 49, was appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in 2006.
As the youngest nominee to the nation’s highest court in 25 years, if confirmed by the Senate, he will likely be able to serve for decades, just as Scalia did.
Scalia’s vacancy has been open a year, leaving the court split with four conservative jurists and four liberal jurists. Gorsuch could break the tie, meaning this could be the biggest fight of the year in the U.S. Senate.
Gorsuch is a Colorado native. He is the son of the late Anne Gorsuch Burford, who was former President Reagan’s first EPA administrator, from 1981 to 1983.
But it’s Gorsuch’s legal mind that likely attracted the Trump administration. He is Ivy League through and through: He got his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, then a law degree from Harvard University. He also got a doctorate from Oxford University in England.
“Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text. He will make an incredible Justice as soon as the Senate confirms him,” Trump said at the press conference for the announcement.
According to SCOTUSBlog, Gorsuch clerked for prominent conservative judges: Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; the late Justice Byron White of the Supreme Court; and Supreme Court current Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Gorsuch has a soft-spoken, humble manner. He and his wife had their arms around each other as Trump announced his first pick, and perhaps one of his most impactful.
Gorsuch thanked Sentelle, who was in the East Room with a slew of top Republican officials. He also paid tribute to Scalia.
“Justice Scalia was a lion of the law,” said Gorsuch. “I miss him.”
According to the Associated Press, Gorsuch has written 175 majority opinions and 65 concurrences or dissents in his decade on the 10th Circuit.
Gorsuch wrote in favor of courts’ second-guessing of government regulations, in defense of religious freedom and skeptically about law enforcement, according to AP. He has written that courts give too much power to government agencies who interpret the law, rather than the people who object to the agencies overreaching.
And, according to AP, Gorsuch sided with two groups that mounted religious objections to the Obama administration’s requirements that employers provide health insurance that includes contraception for women. This was the famous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case. The Supreme Court later said the religious beliefs of employers were indeed violated, sparking much controversy.
Gorsuch is sure to be grilled about the issue, and he will likely be opposed by pro-abortion activist groups.
Gorsuch will also be asked if he supports original intent of the Constitution, or if he believes the Constitution is a flexible document — a “living, breathing” document, as some Democrats like to call it. In asking these questions, Democrats will seek to get Gorsuch to admit he will keep objectionable laws — objectionable to the Democrats, that is — if they meet a minimum of constitutional muster.
Most senators told LifeZette they did not know Gorsuch was the pick until Trump made the announcement.
But even before Gorsuch was announced, conservative allies lined up.
The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal group, said it would spend $10 million on pro-Grosuch ads. The first round of ads will start in Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota and Montana — all states with at least one Democratic senator where Trump ran up his margins on Nov. 8.
Trump also recruited former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, to help shepherd Gorsuch through the upper chamber’s hearings.
There is no schedule yet as to when the U.S. Senate will begin hearings on the vacancy.