President Trump, who was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States last Friday (January 20), appears ready to fulfill a recent promise by selecting a Supreme Court nominee within the first two weeks of his presidency. President Trump recently tweeted that the pick will be announced on February 2.
I will be making my Supreme Court pick on Thursday of next week.Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
Last February, Justice Antonin Scalia, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan and a powerful conservative voice, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 79. Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) remains unfilled.
For nearly a year, the Supreme Court has been without a ninth member. While President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the pick was successfully blocked by Senate Republicans. The decision was made to wait until the 2016 presidential election was over, and a confirmation hearing for Judge Garland was never held.
Feb. 2 is the date Trump will announce his pick for Supreme Court. Which of the three shortlisted will it be? https://t.co/XeazOsEExr
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) January 25, 2017
With the passing of Justice Scalia, there are currently only three justices on the court who are thought of as conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Clarence Thomas. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan are generally thought to represent the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy is considered the wild card or swing vote.
With the court hanging in the balance, as liberals are only one justice away from having a five-seat majority, the issue of Supreme Court nominees became a big issue during the 2016 presidential election.
Pres.-elect Trump on a SCOTUS replacement: “I have a list of 20”; says decision will be made within 2 weeks after Inauguration Day. pic.twitter.com/PR3x5s68EQ
— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) January 11, 2017
After the passing of Justice Scalia, when President Trump was still a candidate, he revealed a list of 21 names from which he would choose Supreme Court nominees. When President Trump was competing with Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, Governor John Kasich, and others for the GOP nomination, some were still questioning his conservative credentials.
However, with his list of potential Supreme Court nominees, he assured voters that he would be picking originalist judges — like Justice Antonin Scalia.
As USA Today describes, originalism is a school of thought that argues “that the Constitution should be interpreted based on the intent of the Founders.” In the past, USA Today has also described originalism as the belief “that the Constitution means the same thing today as it did when it was drafted.” Counter to originalism is a school of thought that argues that the Constitution is a “living document” and is malleable over time.
According to USA Today, President Trump has narrowed the list of judges that he will be picking to fill the vacant seat down to just three. Each potential nominee was picked from President Trump’s original list of 21 as well.
Per USA Today, the choice has come down to Neil Gorsuch (Colorado), William Pryor (Alabama), and Thomas Hardiman (Pennsylvania). All three contenders are federal appeals court judges.
— ABC News (@ABC) January 25, 2017
USA Today argues that Judge Gorsuch, who is 49-years-old, would be “the most natural” fit to fill Justice Scalia’s seat and also describes him “as a strict adherent of originalism.” USA Today also reports that a partisan showdown may soon follow in the wake of a pick being announced.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already vowed to resist any nominee that he and other Democrats feel “is out of the mainstream,” according to CNN.
“I’m hopeful that President Trump may nominate someone who is mainstream and could get bipartisan support,” Senator Schumer told Jake Tapper of CNN. “But if they don’t, yes, we will fight tooth and nail, as long as we have to.”
As the Hill describes, under current rules, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate. The Republican-controlled Senate currently holds a slight majority of 52 seats, per Politico.
The next justice who is confirmed to join the Supreme Court will become the 113th Justice to serve on the nation’s highest court.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]