Neil Gorsuch, a 49-year-old judge from the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, is President Donald Trump's pick to replace late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Trump announced Gorsuch's selection in a highly publicized Tuesday evening address. The pick will likely delight conservatives and dismay progressives; Gorsuch, like, Scalia is a judicial originalist and strict textualist, meaning he believes constitutional law should be interpreted only in the context in which it was written and justices should not consider legislative intent when making decisions.
Gorsuch could potentially serve the court for decades, shaping the course of the nation's judicial system long after Trump leaves office.
According to Vox, he's "reliably, though idiosyncratically, conservative" on a number of issues, including opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia, that the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate is unconstitutional and he has taken a "limited view of a defendant's right to competent representation." SCOTUSblog noted that much like Scalia, Gorsuch's written opinions are "exceptionally clear and routinely entertaining."
Gorsuch is quite amenable to the religious freedom arguments social conservatives have deployed to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people in recent years. He was one of the justices who ruled against former President Barack Obama's administration in their case against Hobby Lobby, which argued it was free under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act not to offer employees insurance covering contraceptives as mandated in the Affordable Care Act.
Gorsuch's views on abortion are less clear, according to the conservative National Review, though his opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia suggests pro-life leanings.
He has generally ruled against "death penalty petitioners pursuing relief from their sentences through federal habeas," SCOTUSblog added. Like Scalia, he opposes the "dormant commerce clause," a states' rights-friendly position on interstate commerce, but is more conservative than the late justice on how broadly to interpret administrative laws tied to the functioning of federal agencies.
In a statement delivered beside Trump, Gorsuch name-checked both Scalia and former Justice Robert Jackson. Interestingly, some of Jackson's most famous cases were checking executive power. He dissented when the Supreme Court upheld Japanese internment in Korematsu v. United States, and struck down Truman's executive order seizing the steel industry in Youngstown v. Sawyer. If Gorsuch tries to model himself after Jackson, the legality of some of Trump's most recent executive orders may not be as secure as he might hope.
Trump's decision comes after Republicans in Congress stonewalled former President Barack Obama's nominee for the open Supreme Court slot, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Merrick Garland, for over 10 months. Despite the GOP's extraordinary decision to prevent Obama from appointing any replacement for Scalia — a delay which ultimately resulted in the longest wait period for any Supreme Court nominee in U.S. political history — Republicans are likely to move forcefully in support of Gorsuch's confirmation.
The president needs 60 Senate votes to avoid a filibuster, which would require eight Democrats to support his pick for the court. Trump has already said he wants GOP leadership in the Senate to use the so-called "nuclear option," a change to Senate rules that would eliminate the option of the filibuster and allow a simple majority of 51 senators to confirm Gorsuch, if Democrats attempt to stonewall the nominee.
The nuclear option is called such because it risks a form of mutually assured political destruction down the road. Were the balance of power in D.C. to flip and leave Republicans in the minority, the party could find themselves unable to block a future Democratic nominee.
Jake Miller contributed additional reporting to this article.
Jan. 31, 2017, 8:47 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.