With Republicans having blocked the nomination of former President Barack Obama's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, President Donald Trump is now ready to offer up his choice for the seat left vacant for nearly a year since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
Trump said on Twitter Wednesday morning that he'd make his choice on Thursday of next week, Feb. 2.
The contenders are three federal appeals court judges: Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th Circuit; Thomas Hardiman of the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit (where the president's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, serves); and William Pryor of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit.
But it's Hardiman and Gorsuch that have emerged as the front-runners, and Bloomberg writes that they "would, in all likelihood, largely track the voting pattern of the late Antonin Scalia." Matthew Monforton adds at The Resurgent: "for Scaliaphiles like [himself], the nomination and confirmation of a Justice Gorsuch might be the next best thing to a Lazarus-style resurrection of Justice Scalia."
The Times writes that Gorsuch's "best-known votes came in decisions concerning regulations under the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to provide free contraception coverage. He voted to accommodate religious objections to the regulations, a position largely upheld by the Supreme Court."
Hardiman, Bloomberg writes, "has been a supporter of gun rights and police powers in his decade on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals." It continues:
He voted to strike down a New Jersey law requiring people to show a "justifiable need" to get a permit for carrying a handgun in public. Hardiman said the Second Amendment right to bear arms extends outside the home—an issue the Supreme Court hasn’t yet considered.
Hardiman wrote an opinion upholding the constitutionality of a jail’s policy of strip-searching all people who have been arrested.
The road to a confirmation for any of the men may not be smooth, as Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday. Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper, Schumer said, "If the nominee is out of the mainstream, we will do our best to keep the seat open," and vowed that in the face of such a nominee, "we will fight it tooth and nail, as long as we have to."
Resistance is galvanizing off Capitol Hill as well, as Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, told the Times: "We are prepared to oppose every name on Trump's list," and said progressive and civil rights communities would join forces to oppose a Gorsuch, Hardiman, or Pryor nomination.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was nominated by Obama, offered her thoughts on the process Monday, telling a crowd at Arizona State University: "Any self-respecting judge who comes in with an agenda that would permit that judge to tell you how they will vote is the kind of person you don't want as a judge."
Rather, she said, lawmakers should ask, "Do [the prospective justices] treat others with respect and dignity? Find out whether they have ruled in ways in which they expressed a difference with their personal feelings, because a judge who can't point to a decision that's different from how they personally feel is not a judge who's following the rule of law."