Conservative federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated Tuesday by President Donald Trump to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant for almost a year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Trump made the announcement during prime time from the East Room of the White House. He said he made a promise to the American people during his campaign to find the very best judge for the nation’s highest court and called his selection process one of the most transparent in history.
“I promised to pick someone who respects our laws and is representative of our Constitution and who loves our Constitution,” Trump said.
He went on to praise Gorsuch’s “extraordinary resume” and academic background, noting that he “has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support.”
Trump also recognized Scalia’s wife, Maureen, who was in the audience and said the “late, great” justice’s “image and genius was in my mind throughout the decision making process.”
The New York Times reported that Gorsuch, based on a study analyzing the ideologies of potential nominees, falls even more conservative than Scalia. If he is confirmed, it would restore the Supreme Court to 5-4 conservative rule.
It’s expected that Trump will face a full-fledged fight from Senate Democrats on the nomination. Many consider the vacancy a stolen Supreme Court seat after Senate Republicans refused for almost a year to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.
Some Democrats promised even before Trump’s announcement to filibuster any nominee he picked. Republicans currently hold a 52-seat majority in the Senate but there is a 60-vote threshold needed to bring the high court nomination to the floor.
That rule, however, can be changed at any time by Senate Republicans to require only a simple majority – a move Trump recently endorsed.
Gorsuch, 49, currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver and was appointed by former President George W. Bush. He is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years – something Trump seemed to have in mind during his announcement.
“Depending on their age, a justice can be active for 50 years and his or her decisions can last a century or more and can often be permanent,” he said.
University of North Carolina Law Professor Michael Gerhardt said Tuesday night that Gorsuch is likely to enjoy considerable support from Senate Republicans.
“He’s a very solid conservative judge, very popular and well respected in all the sort of circles in which Republican judges move,” he said.
Both U.S. Senators from North Carolina, Republicans Thom Tillis and Richard Burr took to social media after the announcement to express support for Gorsuch.
“Judge Neil Gorsuch is an incredibly qualified and mainstream choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” Tillis stated. “He has proven himself to be a judge who approaches every case before him with fairness, and bases his decisions on the rule of law. I hope my colleagues in the Senate, regardless of party, will join me in thoughtfully considering Judge Gorsuch as our next Supreme Court Justice.”
Burr said he is hopeful he Senate will “come together and swiftly confirm Judge Gorsuch.”
Gorsuch, who has an Ivy League background and has clerked for Supreme Court justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, is perhaps most well-known for taking the side of religious organization Hobby Lobby in opposing parts of the Affordable Care Act which required them to cover contraceptives.
He has also ruled against workers in favor of big corporations, written against euthanasia and assisted suicide and is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces.
In fact, a number of liberal and progressive organizations have taken a hard stance against Gorsuch because of his extreme conservative agenda.
People For The American Way President Michael Keegan described Gorsuch as an “ideological warrior who puts his own right-wing politics above the Constitution, the law and the rights of everyday people.”
“Judge Gorsuch has spent his entire career pushing an extreme agenda that hurts ordinary Americans,” he stated. “He has made clear that he’s a patently unacceptable choice who’d push his own dangerous agenda from the bench. Over the course of his career, he’s turned his back on fundamental American rights, from shutting down claims of gender discrimination in the workplace, to trying to limit Americans’ ability to join class-action lawsuits to challenge corporate wrong-doing, to ruling in the original Hobby Lobby decision that corporations are people and can refuse to offer their employees birth control, to claiming that a police officer could not be sued for using excessive force when his stun gun killed a young man running from police simply because he was growing marijuana plants. That’s appalling.”
The National Abortion Federation also criticized Gorsuch as “a far-right jurist who would overturn basic and well-established principles of American law.”
“President Trump promised to put forth a nominee who would oppose Roe v. Wade. We should take him at his word,” stated Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the organization. “With an Administration that wants to overturn Roe and abortion opponents in control of the House and Senate, the stakes are extremely high for women’s health and safety. Americans overwhelmingly believe that Roe should be upheld and will not tolerate retreating to the days when women had to sacrifice their lives and health to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. We urge Senators to carefully scrutinize the record of Neil Gorsuch, and vote against this nominee, who could jeopardize the lives and health of American women.”
Congressional Democrats were none too pleased with Trump’s pick and, like many Republican Senators, took to social media to express their disappointment.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York tweeted: “We all know Scalia was horrible for women’s rights and #LGBT rights. #Gorsuch is just as bad. #OpposeTrumpSCOTUSpick”
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada tweeted: “Gorsuch will jeopardize women, collective bargaining, the environment, campaign finance reform, LGBT rights, voter access, & more.”
The Democratic National Committee was also quick to respond to Gorsuch’s nomination.
“The nomination of Judge Gorsuch raises some very serious questions about whether he would be a Supreme Court Justice who believes the Constitution protects all of us, not just the wealthy, and whether he can approach each case with an open mind to make fair decisions based on the merits,” the organization stated.
“We cannot afford a Supreme Court Justice who doesn’t have the utmost respect for constitutional values of liberty, equality and justice for all.”
Still, from an academic standpoint, Gerhardt said Gorsuch may not be as easy to oppose as some of Trump’s other possible nominations.
“I think of all the possible nominations he could have made; this is the one that will probably make the fight more difficult,” he said.
Gorsuch has spoken to some of the issues Senate Democrats are concerned about, but not all, Gerhardt said, which might work in his favor. He thinks Gorsuch during the path forward might discuss his methodology, which will lead to many trying to analyze how he’ll come down on the issues he hasn’t been so clear about.
Gorsuch, who attended the event Tuesday night with his wife, Marie Louise, thanked the President and Vice President for the courtesy shown to him throughout the process.
“Standing here in a house of history and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge that if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country,” he said.
He spoke about how donning the judge’s robe serves as a reminder of what’s expected in the role: impartiality, independence, collegiality and courage. He said he looks forward to working with the Senate, answering their questions and addressing their concerns.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, released a statement after Gorsuch’s nomination that it would respond the way it has with all nominees, by conducting an extensive evaluation of his jurisprudence and full record to determine whether he is qualified to sit on the court.
“Our country sits on the brink of constitutional crisis,” it states. “Our nation deserves a Supreme Court nominee who will be faithful in upholding the Constitution of the United States, and fair in their interpretation and application of federal civil rights laws. … Looming over this moment is the fact that the current Supreme Court vacancy is the result of more than 300 days of tremendous political obstruction that has undermined the integrity of the Court as an institution. Thus, any new Justice must be someone who will restore the standing of the Court, while bringing true independence to the role.”
The organization plans to release a full report on Gorsuch and noted as a preliminary matter that the nominee has placed support for employers’ religious freedoms over the constitutional rights of employees.
“We urge the Senate to fully scrutinize and exhaustively examine Judge Gorsuch’s record.”