Last night President Donald Trump introduced his pick for the empty Supreme Court seat left behind when Anthony Scalia unexpectedly passed away last year — it is Judge Neil Gorsuch from Colorado. He is 49 years old, a conservative, was appointed as a federal judge by George W Bush (43). The Supreme Court has had a empty seat (with 8 out of 9 justices) for a year. Then-President Obama appointed Judge Merrick Garland to fill the post, but Republicans refused to allow confirmation hearings to start, wanting to allow the new president to pick the justice. Their strategy worked.
President Trump said his resume is very good — and it is impressive, as he graduated from Columbia, Oxford, and Harvard Law. He was a clerk (a person who assists a judge in researching issue and in writing opinions) for the DC Circuit court (federal court) and clerked for a former Supreme Court Justice Byron Williams and for current Supreme Justice Anthony Kennedy, then worked as lawyer, worked in the Bush justice department, and finally was appointed as a federal judge for the 10th Circuit 10 years ago. His mother was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ronald Reagan’s administration. So he’s been around Republican and intellectual elites for all of his life.
President Trump said he picked him because he was keeping his word to appoint a judge that would respect our laws, loves the Constitution, and would interpret the laws as written.
Judge Gorsuch thanked Trump, said he was inspired by the people he worked with as a federal judge — that they followed the law without respect to political beliefs. He said Justice Scalia was a lion of the law and that he misses him. He said he learned a lot from the various judges and justices he clerked for. He said that a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge.
There is a lot of analysis out there on Gorsuch and his views — he appears to be someone that likes to interpret the Constitution literally, is against assisted suicide/euthanasia, and was in support of Hobby Lobby’s religious-based objection that they had to provide certain contraceptives (two types of IUDs and the morning-after pill) that might work by destroying a fertilized egg to employees as a requirement under Obamacare/ACA.
Some liberals feel hopeful about Gorsuch’s selection because he appears to be someone that is against federal agencies having too much power, sided with with defendants in criminal cases, and spoke out about states and federal governments putting too many statues that forbids too much activity. It is not clear what his opinion and standing on abortion (Roe v Wade) is. During Trump’s campaign, he said he would pick a pro-life (anti-abortion) judge. If he is appointed, the Supreme Court would lean conservative.
Now, up next for Gorsuch is the confirmation hearings, in which the Senate will have to vote to confirm him — and current Senate rules say at least 60 senators must vote in favor of the justice. There are currently 52 Republicans so there has to be 8 Democratic Senators to support Gorsuch — something that might be an issue given the extremely combative political climate and feelings of resentment over Republicans blocking the Obama pick of Judge Merrick Garland.
But Republican Senators can bypass any opposition from Democrats by doing the “nuclear option” — which would suspend the rules and allow a simple majority of 51 votes to confirm him. This maneuver has never been used for a Supreme Court nominee, but it was used by Democrats to confirm Cabinet nominations and lower court judges. President Trump has said that Republican Senators should use this option if necessary.
The confirmation hearings will happen sometime in March.