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Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2017 @ 3:16 PM
President Donald Trump on Tuesday selected federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch for a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, moving to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia with someone strongly backed by more conservative groups, as Mr. Trump urged Democrats to support his nominee.
"The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute," President Trump said at the White House, as he praised Gorsuch's experience as a lawyer and appellate judge.
"It is an extraordinary resume," the President said. "As good as it gets."
"Justice Scalia was a lion of the law," Judge Gorsuch said in accepting his nomination, as he thanked the President for the opportunity.
"Mr. President, I am honored, and I am humbled," Gorsuch added to applause.
Gorsuch was immediately praised by GOP Senators.
"Neil Gorsuch is a highly-regarded jurist with a record of distinguished service, rooted in respect for the law," said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE).
"Judge Gorsuch’s impressive legal background and judicial career demonstrate he has the right experience and judgment needed to serve on our nation’s highest court," said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
"Judge Gorsuch's record shows that he will treat everyone equally-regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, political views, influence, or wealth," said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).
"Judge Neil Gorsuch has led a remarkable career," said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
"The President has nominated a mainstream and faithful constitutionalist to serve on the Supreme Court," said Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).
Conservatives had clearly signaled their approval of Gorsuch in recent days, wanting someone in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February of 2016.
At 49 years old, Gorsuch could be on the court for decades if he is confirmed.
"Gorsuch has been tested on the major issues conservatives care about: life, religious liberty, guns, and judicial restraint," said radio host Erick Erickson.
"He has a paper trail on those issues that is consistent over time, he has an intellectual pedigree that makes him the proper replacement for Scalia," Erickson added.
Intellectually, he certainly seems to be a match for Scalia, whose acerbic wit was evident both on the bench and in opinions.
And it doesn't hurt that he looks like he is straight out of Central Casting.
Gorsuch was nominated for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 by President George W. Bush; the nomination faced no controversy, as Gorsuch was approved by the full Senate on a voice vote.
Judge Gorsuch is no stranger to Washington, D.C. - he was a Page in the Senate in the 1980's - about the same time that I was getting my start on Capitol Hill as a House Page.
The judge's mother, Ann Gorsuch, was the EPA Director during the Reagan Administration. She had a somewhat tumultuous time in that job, creating controversy with her efforts to make cuts in the EPA budget and reducing regulations.
It was once said of his mother that, "she could kick a bear to death with her bare feet."
After law school, Judge Gorsuch clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court, working both for current Justice Anthony Kennedy (nominated by President Reagan), and former Justice Byron White (nominated by President Kennedy).
"Justice White used to tell us in chambers, 'Two heads are better than one,'" Gorsuch told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2006.
"He is right," Gorsuch continued at his confirmation hearing. "So I think working with your colleagues and trying to get to agreement is hugely important."
Democrats were less than excited by the choice.
"I had hoped that President Trump would work in a bipartisan way to pick a mainstream nominee like Merrick Garland and bring the country together," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). "Instead, he outsourced this process to far-right interest groups."
"Judge Gorsuch’s radical views on women’s rights are deeply troubling," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Unlike President Obama's choice to fill this same seat, Merrick Garland, Gorsuch will get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But it's not clear if Gorsuch can get confirmed; Democrats remain aggravated by last year's Republican blockade of Garland, as some have already vowed to filibuster, meaning the GOP will need 60 votes to advance the Gorsuch nomination in the Senate.
"I only hope that Democrats and Republicans can come together - for once - for the good of the country," said Mr. Trump.
It was a different time in 1986 when the Senate voted 98-0 in favor of Justice Scalia. That won't be repeated for Judge Gorsuch.