President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, federal judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado, has received top marks after an evaluation by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. The endorsement arrives only weeks before Gorsuch is set to appear before Congress, where Democratic lawmakers are facing pressure from constituents to oppose his nomination.
On March 9, the ABA submitted a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and ranking member Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, offering their assessment of the Colorado judge, The Daily Caller reports.
The ABA judiciary committee offered its highest endorsement for Gorsuch, describing him as highly qualified after evaluating his "qualities of integrity, professional competence, and judicial demeanor."
"After an exhaustive evaluation process, the Committee has determined by unanimous vote that Judge Gorsuch is 'Well Qualified' for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court," the ABA letter stated.
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Grassley took to social media to tout the ABA's endorsement of the conservative-leaning appointee.
"The ABA just gave BIG BIG boost to SCOTUS nominee Gorsuch [with] HIGHEST rating-unanimous well qualified," Grassley tweeted. "He's well on his way to Supreme Court."
The Senate confirmation hearings for the Gorsuch nomination will be held on March 20. Republican Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has vowed that the Colorado judge will be confirmed before the congressional recess on April 8.
"We're gonna confirm his before the April recess," McConnell told Politico.
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The Senate majority leader, who had managed to keep the Supreme Court vacancy open for nearly a year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, has also taken credit for how the prospect of a conservative replacement appointee had helped Trump's electoral prospects with a mobilized Republican base.
"Politically, oddly enough, not only did it not hurt our guys who were running, it actually helped the president bring Republicans home," McConnell added. "And [Trump] ended up getting 90 percent of the Republican vote just like [former presidential candidate] Mitt Romney did, and the single biggest issue was, 'Who do I want to make the Supreme Court appointment?'"
That strategy, and the fact that Gorsuch will receive a confirmation hearing that former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, federal Judge Merrick Garland, had been denied, has the Democratic base urging their representatives to vote against the Colorado judge.
"This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee, and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the court," said Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon on Jan. 31, according to The Hill.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York has asserted that Gorsuch will need 60 Senate votes to gain confirmation or face a filibuster. With a 52-seat majority in the chamber, Republicans have the upper hand but would not be able to overcome a filibuster unless McConnell invokes the so-called nuclear option, which would permanently make the confirmation of Supreme Court judges up to a simple majority.
Even if Democratic lawmakers have no real recourse to block the Gorsuch nomination, they are facing pressure from grassroots liberals to demonstrate that they are hearing their calls for opposition.
"Any Democrat, any elected official who is wondering whether the Supreme Court fight is a priority for the grassroots, needs to understand that the answer is an unequivocal yes," executive director Anna Galland of progressive advocacy group MoveOn told The Huffington Post.