WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated Neil Gorsuch for a lifetime job on the US Supreme Court, picking the 49-year-old federal appeals court judge to restore the court’s conservative majority and help shape rulings on divisive issues such as abortion, gun control, the death penalty and religious rights.
The Colorado native faces a potentially contentious confirmation battle in the US Senate after Republicans last year refused to consider Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy caused by the February 2016 death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia.
The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, indicated his party would mount a procedural hurdle requiring 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate rather than a simple majority to approve Gorsuch, and expressed “very serious doubts” about the nominee. Liberal groups called for an all-out fight to reject Gorsuch while conservative groups and Republican senators heaped praise on him like “outstanding,” “impressive” and a “home run.”
Gorsuch, the son of a former Reagan administration official, is the youngest nominee to the nation’s highest court in more than a quarter century, and he could influence the direction of the court for decades. He is a judge on the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals and was appointed to that post by Republican President George W. Bush in 2006.
Announcing the selection to a nighttime crowd in the White House East Room flanked by the judge and his wife, Trump said Gorsuch’s resume is “as good as it gets.” Trump, who took office on Jan. 20 and has sparked numerous controversies, said he hopes Republicans and Democrats can come together on this nomination for the good of the country.
“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous disciple, and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump told an audience that included Scalia’s widow.
“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,” Trump added.
Gorsuch is considered a conservative intellectual, known for backing religious rights and writing against euthanasia and assisted suicide, and is seen as very much in the mold of Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the court for decades.