President Donald Trump (R) will nominate Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, to the United States Supreme Court.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gorsuch would replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died of natural causes in February of 2016. Scalia was a conservative firebrand and textualist. Gorsuch is generally viewed as ideologically similar to Scalia. Thus, Gorsuch’s nomination, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will leave the court with essentially the same ideological makeup it had before Scalia’s death.
Gorsuch worked as a law clerk for Judge David B. Sentelle on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and later for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He then served from 1995 to 2005 as a lawyer in private practice. In 2005 he became Deputy to the Associate Attorney General under President George W. Bush (R). Bush nominated Gorsuch to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit a year later, and he was confirmed by the Senate in an unopposed voice vote.
In March of 2016, then-President Barack Obama (D) nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit of the Court of Appeals, to serve on the Supreme Court. The Republican-majority in the Senate declined to act upon that nomination, resulting in an unusually long (though not unprecedented) vacancy on the bench. The U.S. Constitution charges the Senate with providing “advice and consent” on judicial nominations, and whether inaction constitutes “advice and consent” remains an unanswered legal question.
Some Democrats in the Senate have pledged to mount a filibuster against Trump’s nominee, even before knowing who it would be. This may effectively require that at least sixty senators vote to end debate and move forward with a vote to confirm. However it is possible that Republicans will use the so-called “nuclear option” to prohibit the filibuster’s use to obstruct nominations and thereby force a straight up-or-down vote.