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WASHINGTON/PHILADELPHIA U.S. President Donald
Trump said on Wednesday he will make his choice to fill the
vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 2 as he seeks to
restore the conservative majority on the high court, prompting
Republicans in Congress to warn Democrats against blocking the
nominee. Three U.S. appeals court judges are among those under close
consideration by Trump to fill the vacancy left by the death of
conservative Justice Antonin Scalia nearly a year ago.
Appointment as a Supreme Court justice requires Senate
confirmation for the lifetime post. Trump’s fellow Republicans
control the Senate with a 52-48 majority, but Democrats could
try to block the nomination using procedural hurdles.
John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, warned that
his party would not allow Trump’s nominee to languish.
“We will fill that seat,” the South Dakota senator said in
response to a reporter’s question on whether Republicans might
scrap the procedural hurdle known as the “filibuster” if
Democrats use it to block the nomination.
Speaking on the opening day of a three-day retreat for
Senate and House of Representatives Republicans in Philadelphia,
Thune said that Republicans will have opportunities to consult
with Democrats. He did not say how long that consultation
process would be allowed to go on before potentially taking
steps to end a standoff if Democrats erect barriers to the
More than three years ago, when Democrats controlled the
Senate, they used their majority to change Senate rules in order
to ban filibusters against presidential nominees other than for
the Supreme Court. The move came after Republicans blocked
several key appointees by then-President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he
told Trump in the meeting that Democrats would fight any nominee
they consider to be outside the mainstream.
Trump is in position to name Scalia’s replacement because
the Republican-led U.S. Senate last year refused to consider
Obama’s nominee, appeals court judge Merrick Garland.
The current front-runners include three conservative jurists
who were appointed to the bench by Republican former President
George W. Bush: Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the Denver-based 10th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Thomas Hardiman, who serves on
the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and
William Pryor, a judge on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at a daily
briefing on Wednesday that he would not get ahead of Trump’s
decision, noting that the president had listed about 20
candidates for the Supreme Court during his campaign.
If not selected for the nation’s top court, some nominees
could be contenders for the more than 100 vacancies on lower
federal courts, he added.
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