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SU political science professor evaluates President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

A Syracuse University political science professor said President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will likely face a filibuster from Democratic senators.

President Donald Trump recently nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court of the United States, fulfilling his campaign promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice with conservative-leaning views.

The seat has been empty since Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died last year.

Trump highly praised Gorsuch’s background in announcing the nomination, acknowledging he is “the finest and most brilliant writings — oftentimes the writings — of any judge for a long, long time.”

“The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute,” Trump said. “He is the man of our country and a man who our country really needs and needs badly to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice.”

There have been several comparisons between Gorsuch and Scalia. Both are practitioners of “originalism,” the idea of interpreting the Constitution to follow the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

“(Gorsuch) has also publicly praised Justice Scalia and indicated his hope to follow in his footsteps,” said Thomas Keck, a professor of political science in Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs — and an expert who specializes in the U.S. Supreme Court — in an email.

Experts agree that Gorsuch has distinguished academic and judicial records. He studied at Columbia University, Harvard University and Oxford University.

After completing his education, he was a judicial clerk for judges on both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Gorsuch to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was unanimously confirmed to the position by the Senate two months later.

Gorsuch’s views are widely regarded as conservative. Among five conservative-leaning justices, The New York Times placed Gorsuch second to the right next to Justice Clarence Thomas.

“His most prominent judicial decisions are ones allowing private employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their employers and one siding with Utah’s governor’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood,” Keck said.

Keck noted that many Democrats and independents are unhappy with the nomination. Republicans refused to hold a confirmation hearing when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the empty seat last year.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressed his skepticism on Gorsuch’s ability to defend the Constitution.

“The burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the Executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans,” Schumer said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “Given his record, I have very serious doubts about Judge Gorsuch’s ability to meet this standard.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (D) also said she is alarmed by Trump’s pick and that she will oppose Gorsuch’s nomination, according to The Atlantic.

In response, Trump declared that Republicans should “go nuclear” and scrap the 60-vote majority rule and vote on Gorsuch’s nomination with a 51-vote majority, if Democrats attempt to block the nomination, according to The Hill. Republicans currently have 52 seats in the Senate.

“A number of Democratic senators have promised to filibuster the nomination. I think they are likely to do so. … It’s not likely to be smooth sailing,” Keck said.

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