President Donald Trump has nominated Colorado federal judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat that has been vacant since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of last year.
Trump announced his choice late Tuesday in a televised event at the White House, introducing Gorsuch as a judge the "country needs badly" and saying his qualifications are beyond dispute.
Gorsuch has "a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text," Trump said.
The U.S. Senate has to vote to confirm Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court. He will begin meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Trump administration is also planning a series of briefings for members of Congress about the nominee.
Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate. The top Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer, said he has "serious doubts" about Gorsuch and that his party will insist that any Supreme Court nominee receive 60 votes in order to be confirmed.
The confirmation could be contentious following the Republican refusal to hold confirmation hearings for former President Barack Obama's choice to fill the vacant seat.
Senator Ted Cruz said the Senate should "move expeditiously" and that he believes Gorsuch will be confirmed.
"The Democrats will not succeed in filibustering this nominee," he told VOA's Kurdish service. "They may try, they may not try. I don't know the answer to that. But they will not succeed."
Cruz and Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, both touted Gorsuch as a judge who adheres to a strict interpretation of the Constitution common among conservative judges.
Grassley said Gorsuch is "not like a lot of people on the Supreme Court who want to stretch congressional intent on the law or maybe read the Constitution beyond what the writers implied for the Constitution to say."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said Gorsuch has a "long record of faithfully applying the law and the Constitution."
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Senator Diane Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said it will take time to thoroughly review Gorsuch's record and expressed concern about Trump's campaign pledge to appoint justices who oppose abortion rights.
"Then tonight, President Trump declared, 'I am a man of my word.' That's exactly what I'm afraid of. Judge Gorsuch voted twice to deny contraceptive coverage to women, elevating a corporation's religious beliefs over women's health care," Feinstein said.
Senator Dick Durbin wrote on Twitter that in recent years the Supreme Court has "shifted dramatically," with decisions that favor corporate interests at the expense of American workers. He said the vacant seat "belongs to the American people, and I'll make sure their voices are heard."
If confirmed, Gorsuch would restore the 5-4 conservative majority on the nine-member court that existed with Scalia on the bench. The 49-year-old would also be one of the youngest justices ever to sit on the court where lifetime appointments make a president's selections important long after he leaves office.
During his introduction Tuesday, Gorsuch called the appointment to the Supreme Court "a most solemn assignment." He said if the Senate confirms him, he will do everything in his power to be "a faithful servant of the Constitution and the laws of this great country." He also spoke of his admiration for Scalia, calling him a "lion of the law."