01 February, 2017
President Donald Trump named federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Gorsuch is the youngest nominee for the Supreme Court in 25 years. He is 49 years old. If confirmed by the Senate, he could influence important legal issues for many years to come. But Gorsuch faces strong opposition from Democrats, who say the post should have gone to former President Barack Obama's nominee.
Trump said he made the right choice.
"Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support," Trump said. It was Trump's first televised address from the White House.
As a candidate for president, Trump released the names of 21 judges supported by The Federalist Society, a conservative judicial group. He said that, if elected, he would choose his Supreme Court nominees from the list. Trump also promised to appoint judges ready to overturn a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that gave women the right to abortions.
Supreme Court will likely rule on important issues
The U.S. Supreme Court has the final say on many important legal cases. It has and likely will rule again on issues such as abortion rights, the right to own guns, environmental regulations and religious freedoms.
The nomination of Gorsuch will not change the narrow Supreme Court majority that protect a woman's right to end her pregnancy. But if another vacancy opens up, the high court could end up with a majority willing to overturn the decision.
Another opening would not be unexpected, given that three current Supreme Court justices who have supported abortion rights are over 78-years old. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83, Anthony Kennedy is 80 and Stephen Breyer is 78.
Gorsuch is a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. He was approved by a voice vote in the Senate to the court in 2006. The voice vote signaled that his appointment by President George W. Bush was not considered controversial.
In one high-profile case, Gorsuch ruled against the Obama administration. The ruling said that employers cannot be required to provide birth control as part of health insurance policies. The case was brought by businesses that said they opposed birth control on religious reasons.
Speaking at the White House Tuesday night, Gorsuch said that a judge should base rulings on the law and the U.S. Constitution -- not his or her own opinions.
Democrats to oppose the nomination
The usual nine-member U.S. Supreme Court has had only eight members since February 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia died. Republican lawmakers refused to hold hearings for Obama's choice to replace Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland. They said the court choice should go to the winner of the 2016 presidential election.
Republicans control 52 seats in the 100-member U.S. Senate. Democrats control 48. Some Democrats are promising strong opposition to Trump's court nominee.
But under current rules, Republicans would need 60 votes to stop a Democratic filibuster.
Senator Jeff Merkley is a Democrat from Oregon. He said the nomination was stolen from President Obama. "Think about what is at stake: legal abortion, marriage equality, voting rights, the dark money corruption of our ‘We the People' government, and so much more," Merkley said.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a Republican, praised Gorsuch as "universally respected. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on the nomination.
"By all accounts, he has a record of deciding cases based on the text of the Constitution and the law," Grassley said. "That's important because in our system of government, Congress, not judges, make the laws."
Trump said on Tuesday his promise to appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court was the major reason millions of voters chose him over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Laurence Baum, an Ohio State political science professor, said that may well be the case. Baum said some conservative religious voters might have had concerns about Trump's qualifications and his character. But they voted for him in large numbers because they believed he gave them their best chance in decades to, if not outlaw, to put big limits on abortions.
I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
address - n. speech
regulations - n. rules or laws
outstanding – adj. extremely good
brilliant – adj. very smart
tremendous – adj. very good
discipline – n. a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders
bipartisan – adj. supported by members of both political parties, Democrat and Republican
abortion – n. a medical procedure used to end a pregnancy and cause the death of the fetus
vacancy – n. an opening
filibuster – n. to delay a vote, often by speaking for a long time
at stake – expression at risk
controversial - adj. of or related to a dispute or debate
insurance - adj. a way of guarantee protection or safety