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President Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch To The Supreme Court

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, after President Donald Trump announced Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court.

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, after President Donald Trump announced Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court. Carolyn Kaster/Assocated Press

President Trump has nominated conservative favorite Judge Neil Gorsuch to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

"Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text. He will make an incredible Justice as soon as the Senate confirms him," Trump said in announcing his pick.

NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has more on Gorsuch, who currently sits on the federal appeals court in Denver:

Gorsuch has a sterling legal pedigree. He clerked for two Supreme Court justices, Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. He also served as a clerk on the second most important appeals court in the country, in Washington D.C., for conservative Judge David Sentelle.

Like Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he's in line to replace, Gorsuch has cultivated a reputation as a memorable and clear author of legal opinions. He also considers himself to be an originalist. Lawyers who practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, where Gorsuch currently works, said he's a popular and approachable judge.

Gorsuch has often drawn parallels to Scalia, with SCOTUSblog calling their similarities "eerie." In accepting Trump's nomination, he praised the late justice as a "lion of the law" who was cherished by his colleagues for his "wisdom and his humor."

Like other justices on the court, Gorsuch has an Ivy League background. The Colorado native attended Columbia University, graduated from Harvard Law School and received his doctorate from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 to his current position, where he was confirmed by voice vote without objection.

The choice of Gorsuch drew immediate praise from GOP lawmakers, many of whom were in attendance at the East Room announcement, and conservative groups alike.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Gorsuch as someone with "an impressive background and a long record of faithfully applying the law and the Constitution. House Speaker Paul Ryan called him a "phenomenal nominee" whose "belief in judicial restraint will serve the Court—and the country—very well."

Gorsuch is the second nominee to succeed Scalia. After the 79-year-old justice died suddenly last February, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. But Senate Republicans refused to take up his nomination, arguing instead that the next president should be allowed to chose the next justice.

Now, Senate Democrats are weighing whether they should block whoever Trump's nominee is. The nominee has to get 60 votes to avoid a filibuster and move forward to a full Senate vote, so the White House needs eight Democrats to back the nominee.

Sen. Jeff Merkley has already said he will filibuster the pick. In a statement after Gorsuch was announced, the Oregon Democrat called his nomination "a stolen seat" and maintained that the centrist Garland should not have been kept in limbo for months.

Former Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy echoed those sentiments, blasting Senate Republicans for how they had treated Garland and slamming Trump for "outsourc[ing] this process to far-right interest groups. This is no way to treat a co-equal branch of government, or to protect the independence of our Federal judiciary."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer underscored the 60 vote threshold in his statement, saying that Gorsuch must "prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the Executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans." However, the New York Democrat said that he had "very serious doubts about Judge Gorsuch's ability to meet this standard.

"I believe the independence of our judicial system, and especially the Supreme Court, is more critical now than at any time in recent history. That is the context in which I will review this nomination," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, in a statement. "I will meet with Judge Gorsuch and support a hearing and a vote for him—both of which were denied to an eminently qualified nominee presented by President Obama. The American people need to know what they can expect from this nominee, and that he will protect our fundamental constitutional rights on issues like voting rights, immigration, privacy, and women’s health." 

"This nomination is a win for all Americans, as Judge Gorsuch has a long record of commonsense Constitutional decisions," said Indiana Republican Congressman Todd Rokita. "I have no doubt that Judge Neil Gorsuch will be an asset on the Court for years to come.”

In typical Trump fashion, the run-up to the announcement played out with the typical bravado and suspense of a reality TV show — somewhat fitting for the former host of the The Apprentice.

The White House chose a prime-time announcement instead of the usual nomination during the day. And there were reports throughout the day that the two finalists for the seat — Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman, another federal appeal court judge — might both be at the White House.

But in the end, it was only Gorsuch. However, Trump kept the suspense building as long as he could, walking out alone to make his announcement. Soon, he invited Gorsuch and his wife to the front.

"Was that a surprise — was it?" Trump smiled.