President Donald Trump in a prime-time address Tuesday night nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant for nearly a year, calling the federal appeals court judge’s resume “extraordinary” and his writings “among the finest and most brilliant.”
Since the Feb. 13, 2016, death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, the high court has been at a 4-4 ideological split. If confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch, 49, of Denver, is expected to restore the Supreme Court to its rightward tilt.
“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said at the White House, without making specific references to Gorsuch’s record of rulings. “He is the man of our country and a man who our country really needs — and needs badly — to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice.”
Gorsuch, joined at the announcement by his wife, Louise, said he will do “all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country.”
Trump said the importance of a president’s Supreme Court pick is second only to national security.
The president said he hopes Republicans and Democrats can come together “for once” to confirm Gorsuch.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate must insist on a 60-vote bar, the same standard to which former President Barack Obama’s nominees were subjected.
Schumer criticized Gorsuch’s record, saying the judge “has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pleaded with the Democrats not to filibuster Trump’s nominee.
“I hope members of the Senate will again show him fair consideration and respect the result of the recent election with an up-or-down vote on his nomination, just like the Senate treated the four first-term nominees of Presidents Clinton and Obama,” McConnell said.
Senate Republicans refused to grant a hearing to President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a moderate chosen by Obama one month after Scalia died.
Gorsuch attended Columbia, Harvard and Oxford universities and received his law degree from Harvard.
He practices “originalism,” or the interpretation of the Constitution as the country’s founders intended in their time, and “textualism,” the literal or plain reading of statutes.
He is best known in the legal world for upholding religious-liberty rights regarding contraceptives in cases involving Obamacare.
Gorsuch praised Scalia last year in a speech to Case Western Reserve University School of Law, according to The Washington Post, saying the late justice differentiated between lawmakers, who “may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims about social utility to reshape the law,” and judges, who should do not such thing.
On Tuesday, Gorsuch commended Scalia as a “lion of the law.”
Scalia’s widow, Maureen, attended the announcement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a statement said Trump “fulfilled his pledge to nominate a judge who has a demonstrated loyalty to the Constitution and a strong commitment to life.”
The White House broadcast the nomination live on Facebook, sending a public notice via email earlier in the day that read, “Big news on SCOTUS!” and “You don’t want to miss it!”
Earlier Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters he believes the justice appointee will have the nine Democratic votes needed for confirmation, along with the expected GOP approval.
“The default is that if you’re qualified for the position, then you should be confirmed,” Spicer said of the Senate process.
Gorsuch was among the 21 names made public in September by the Trump campaign as people under consideration for the Supreme Court.
With Tom Brune
Gorsuch, 49, serves on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Gorsuch is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the late Supreme Court Justice Byron White. If confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first justice to serve with a colleague for whom he once worked. Gorsuch has a clear, colloquial writing style and has written in favor of courts’ second-guessing government regulations, in defense of religious freedom and skeptically about law enforcement. He has contended that courts give too much deference to government agencies’ interpretations of statutes. He sided with two groups that mounted religious objections to the Obama administration’s requirements that employers provide health insurance that includes contraception for women. He is the son of Anne Gorsuch, who was Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Ronald Reagan. He worked for two years in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department before Bush appointed him to his appeals court seat, for which he was confirmed by a voice vote in 2006. Gorsuch is an avid skier, fly fisherman and horseback rider. He also teaches at the University of Colorado’s law school in Boulder.