NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump has tapped Neil Gorsuch to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left empty Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.
“This may be the most transparent judicial selection process in history,” Trump said Tuesday night.
“Millions of voters said this was the single most important issue to them when they voted for me for president. I am a man of my word, I will do as I say — something that the American people have been asking for from Washington for a very, very long time,” he added.
Trump had a list of 21 possible choices, which he made public during the presidential campaign. Among the finalists were Gorsuch, who serves on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and Thomas Hardiman, who serves on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a highly unconventional move, both men were at the White House for the announcement Tuesday night, CBS News reported.
“I have selected an individual whose qualities define, really and I mean closely define, what we’re looking for. Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said.
“I would like to thank Senate leadership. I would only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come together for once for the good of the country,” the president added before handing over the podium.
Gorsuch thanked his family, friends and faith, along with his colleagues and the judges who came before him.
“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.
The 49-year-old has served on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver since 2006, after being appointed by President George W. Bush. He once worked at the Supreme Court as a law clerk.
“Practicing in the trial work trenches of the law, I saw that when we judges don our robes, it doesn’t make us any smarter, but it does serve as a reminder of what’s expected of us,” Gorsuch continued. “Impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage.”
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Gorsuch has degrees from Columbia, Harvard Law School, and Oxford, and a judicial philosophy modeled on Scalia’s.
“Justice Scalia a lion of the law. Agree or disagree with him, all of his colleagues on the bench cherished his wisdom and his humor,” Gorsuch said. “Like them, I miss him.”
Gorsuch ruled in the controversial Hobby Lobby case, siding with an employer who did not want to cover employee contraceptive care for religious reasons.
Peg Perl is an attorney with a liberal legal group, and was critical of Gorsuch’s philosophy.
“There’s a bit of a pattern of his decisions choosing corporations over ordinary American citizens,” Perl said.
I think Gorsuch is very qualified but… Democrats are going to give him a lot of trouble,” added Jeffrey Segal of SUNY Stony Brook. “Democrats are very angry over what Republicans did with Merrick Garland. So it’s payback time.”
Gorsuch’s liberal hometown paper, the Denver Post, objected to the Hobby Lobby ruling. But the newspaper does support Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
So does former Obama administration lawyer Neil Kaytal, who wrote in the New York Times that Gorsuch has “judicial independence” and “Will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him.”
Gorsuch would be the youngest justice since Clarence Thomas joined the court in 1991 at age 43.
President Barack Obama previously nominated Judge Merrick Garland, but Senate Republicans refused to consider his nomination, wanting to wait until a new administration came into office. Now, Senate Democrats have vowed to oppose whomever is nominated.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) called Trump’s nomination an “outstanding decision.”
McConnell said in a statement that Gorsuch has “a long record of faithfully applying the law and the Constitution,” and noted that he was confirmed by voice vote in the Senate in 2006. He urged Democrats not to block the nomination.
“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,” the statement continued.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) was also quick to react to the nomination, saying he had “serious doubts.”
“Judge Gorsuch 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 that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice on the Court,” the statement read in part.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) also voiced some objections to Gorsuch.
“Based on what I have read of his past rulings and statements, I believe that Judge Gorsuch’s interpretation of the Constitution falls far outside of the mainstream and I question whether he will put the interests of working families in New Jersey and throughout the country before those of big corporations, or adequately protect the rights of women, minorities, and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” Booker said in a statement.
Quinnipiac Law School Professor John Pavia told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb that conventional wisdom would have Trump choose a nominee who has the best chance of a Senate confirmation, and who would be on the bench for the longest time.
“He’s the youngest out of the bunch at 49, widely regarded as a very bright judge, much in the mold of Antonin Scalia in the way he writes, and doesn’t have a lot of controversy behind him,” Pavia said. “People who have worked with him, people who have studied his opinions say that he writes like Scalia, that he analyzes issues like Scalia, he’s an originalist and a textualist like Scalia, the one thing we don’t know about him exactly is his position on abortion.”
Within minutes of the announcement, activists with professionally-printed signs were in front of the Supreme Court, promising to fight Gorsuch and questioning his independence.
“What promises did Mr. Gorsuch have to make to get that seat?” said Michelle Jawando of the Center for American Progress. “So today we are asking questions about your independence!”
A protest was also held back in New York in front of Trump Tower. A small group of protesters blocked traffic in front of Trump Tower and got arrested.
In other news from Washington, at a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier in the day, Democrats boycotted votes on Steve Mnuchin’s nomination for Treasury Secretary and Tom Price for Health and Human Services, citing ethics concerns.
Meanwhile Tuesday, the White House took issue with the word “ban” when talking about its executive order temporarily banning citizens from seven Middle Eastern countries from traveling to the United States, insisting it is “extreme vetting.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, defended the measure.
“There is nothing wrong with taking a pause and making sure we have the proper vetting standards in place, so that we do not have a problem like France had with Paris,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, once again blasted the administration.
“The level of incompetence of this administration already, only 10 days into the presidency, is staggering,” he said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also criticized the order, calling the roll-out “terrible,” CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported. He said Trump is right to try to protect the United States from terror attacks, but said the order was explained “inartfully.” He said the president deserves to be better-served by his advisors.
Also Tuesday, Trump met with cyber security experts and members of pharmaceutical companies. He’s been critical of high drug prices in the past.
“We have to lower the drug prices. Competition is key to lower drug prices. We have competition, but a lot of times the competition dissipates. I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing a product to a vibrantly competitive market,” he said.
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