On January 20, President Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee as Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Gorsuch, appointed to his current seat in 2006, is known for his staunchly conservative rulings over the past decade.
“When Justice Scalia passed away suddenly last February,” said President Trump in his announcement, “I made a promise to the American people: if I was elected President, I would find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court. I am a man of my word.”
Gorsuch’s ideology does reflect that of the late Justice Antonin Scalia; he identifies both as an originalist, one who interprets the Constitution as it was understood when it was originally written, and a textualist, one who interprets only the text of the legislation itself, not the legislator’s intent nor any unintended consequences of the law. However, those who have read Gorsuch’s writing consider his style much less combative than Justice Scalia.
Gorsuch’s previous cases already give some indication of his stances; Gorsuch often tries to take away deference towards federal agencies and ruled for religious exemptions to the contraceptive clause of the Affordable Care Act. He is strongly opposed to judicial activism. However, there are some issues where his stance is not definite. For example, he has yet to rule on an abortion case.
“I respect the fact that, in our legal order, it is for Congress and not the Court to write new laws,” Gorsuch said while accepting President Trump’s nomination.
In many ways, Gorsuch also reflects the other Justices currently serving. Like five of the other Justices, Gorsuch attended Harvard Law. He also had a Supreme Court clerkship prior to this nomination; he worked under former Justice Byron White and current Justice Anthony Kennedy. However, Gorsuch is Protestant, unlike all of the other current Justices, who are either Jewish or Catholic.
Democrats in the Senate are planning to block Gorsuch’s nomination, similar in the manner that Senate Republicans blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination during former President Barack Obama’s final year. Gorsuch would need 60 Senate votes to be confirmed, and the Republicans only hold 52 seats, which means that the Democrats could vote the nomination down.
“Standing here in a house of history, and acutely aware of my own imperfections,” said Gorsuch. “I pledge that, if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the constitutional laws of this great country.”