On Jan. 31, President Donald Trump nominated Colorado Federal Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch for the open Supreme Court seat, which has been empty since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016.
During his campaign, President Trump promised to nominate a conservative justice to the court to replace Scalia – his nomination of Gorsuch fulfills this promise, as his record suggests he would likely be a consistently conservative voter, especially in cases of religious freedom.
This has raised concerns from liberals as he could potentially vote to overturn cases like Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that legalized gay marriage. Like Scalia, Gorsuch is an originalist, which means he interprets the Constitution as it was written hundreds of years ago, without applying modern context.
Filling the empty Supreme Court seat has been delayed by the increasing partisanship within the government – former President Obama nominated Merrick Garland shortly after Scalia’s death but the Republicans, who held the Senate majority, refused to hold a vote. Similarly, Gorsuch faces opposition from Democratic senators who plan to oppose his confirmation.
In response, Donald Trump told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take the “nuclear option” if the Democrats try to block the nomination, which involves Republicans (who control the Senate with 52 seats) changing the supermajority requirement to Gorsuch requiring a simple majority of only 51 votes to be confirmed. Right now, Gorsuch needs a supermajority of 60 votes to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.