Donald Trump said he will name his pick for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, kicking off what is likely to be a bitter confirmation process to fill a year long vacancy, and bringing new attention to the role of courts in overseeing the executive branch.
The President made the announcement on Twitter (TWTR), temporarily deflecting attention from a raging controversy over his recent executive order that barred refugees and certain green card holders from entering the United States.
The tweet came from Trump’s personal Twitter account but ended with “(W.H.),” suggesting it may have been written by a White House staff member.
The announcement comes amid widespread predictions in the legal community that Trump had whittled his list of Supreme Court nominees to three names, all of whom are regarded as conservatives.
The rumored short list included Judge Neil Gorsuch from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Gorsuch, 49, is known for siding with religious liberty advocates in cases involving birth control and clerked for current Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Another name is William Pryor Jr., a 54-year-old who sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. While Pryor Jr. is considered the most polarizing choice for Democrats because of remarks calling the abortion decision Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination of constitutional law,” he has also been criticized as insufficiently conservative by some on the right.
The final name on Trump’s short list is Thomas Hardiman of the 3rd Circuit, who sits in Pittsburgh. While Hardiman, 51, was not initially considered a leading candidate, some see he has an inside track in part because he sits on the same court as Trump’s sister. He is also seen as having an edge because he does not have an Ivy League background (a complaint among many conservative is all of the current Justices went to Harvard or Yale), and drove a taxi during law school.
While the legal community widely expects him to choose among these three names, Trump’s habit of being unpredictable means a surprise is also possible.
Recent confirmation processes have lasted on average 78 days. If this one follows suit, the new Justice could be on the bench by the time the Supreme Court wraps up its term in early summer.
Democrats, who are angry over Senate Republicans’ failure to consider President Obama’s nominee for almost a year, have promised stout opposition to Trump’s pick. This raises the prospect of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, introducing the so-called “nuclear option”—eliminating the need for 60 votes in the Senate and allowing the Supreme Court pick to be confirmed with a bare majority.