Trump Picks Conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Nominee

U.S. President Donald Trump's hope that Gorsuch will receive bipartisan support in the Senate is unlikely to come to fruition.

Judge Neil Gorsuch shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump as he is  announced as Trump's choice for Supreme Court Justice, Washington D.C., January 31, 2017.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday night to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Judge Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch, who studied at Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama, is a conservative judge and has presented himself over the years as a supporter of Scalia's legal approach and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. 

Trump anounced Gorsuch's nomination at a press conference in the White House, which his administration has been promoting publicly in the last days. In an official statement, Trump said the nomination follows "the most transparent and most important Supreme Court selection process in the history of our country."

The president said that he hopes Gorsuch, who he said "has a superb intellect and an unparalleled legal education," will receive bipartisan support in the Senate, "for the good of the country." In 2006, Gorsuch was nominated by then-president Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the tenth circuit, and received unanimous confirmation in the Senate. That is unlikely to happen this time, however, since Gorsuch will probably be seen by most Democratic lawmakers as an ideological pick and not a moderate one. 

Indeed, the first reactions from Democrats on Capitol Hill did not seem to bode well for Trump's expressed hope. Democrats are still angry over how the Republican leadership refused to even allow hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, for an entire year, based on a false claim that presidents should not nominate Supreme Court justices during their last year in office.

This political blockage paid off for the Republicans, since it rallied conservative voters behind Trump's candidacy in the election, if only for the sake of "saving the Supreme Court," as many voters put it, from the appointment of a liberal-leaning judge to fill in the vacancy created by the death of the conservative Scalia. Now, however, this tactic could backfire, if Democrats choose to use the filibuster against Gorsuch's nomination.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) represented a common notion among many Democrats when he said that "Judge Gorsuch is not a moderate like Merrick Garland. Senate Dems must reject and filibuster, if necessary, Trump's Supreme Court nominee."

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said: "This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee, and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the court." 

Similarly, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said he had "serious concerns" about Gorsuch's nomination and called the judge "way outside of the mainstream."

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, expressed concern on behalf of the entire reform movement over Trump's pick. 

"We are greatly troubled by Judge Gorsuch’s record, which suggests that he may not have the attributes and values a nominee to the Supreme Court ought to have in order to mete out justice and interpret the laws that affect us all," Pesner said.