WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has nominated federal appeals judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
The 49-year-old Gorsuch has served on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver since 2006, after being appointed by President George W. Bush. He once worked at the Supreme Court as a law clerk.
If approved by the Senate, Gorsuch would take the seat left vacant since Justice Antonin Scalia died last year. Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat, saying the choice should go Obama’s successor.
He would be the youngest justice since Clarence Thomas joined the court in 1991 at age 43.
Trump made the announcement Tuesday in a prime-time address from the White House.
The ninth seat on the Supreme Court has sat empty since Scalia died in February 2016. Obama nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy, but Senate Republicans refused to consider the pick, saying the seat should be filled only after the November election.
That GOP effort outraged the White House and congressional Democrats, who have suggested they might seek to block any choice Trump makes. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has said Democrats will oppose any nominee outside the mainstream.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that while Democrats may not like the “political or philosophical background” of the president’s pick, “the criteria in terms of academia background, time on the bench, the expertise and criteria meets the intent of both Republicans and Democrats.”
If Democrats decide to filibuster, the fate of Trump’s nominee could rest in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump has encouraged McConnell to change the rules of the Senate and make it impossible to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee — a change known in the Senate as the “nuclear option.”
A conservative group already has announced plans to begin airing $2 million worth of ads in support of the nominee in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota, four states that Trump won and in which Democrats will be defending their Senate seats in 2018.