Trump meets Senate leaders on Supreme Court pick

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By Lawrence Hurley and David Shepardson

<span class="articleLocation”>President Donald Trump planned to meet with
Senate leaders on Tuesday to discuss his nominee to serve on the
U.S. Supreme Court and said he planned to announce his choice
next week.

Trump’s nominee will fill the vacancy left on the nine-seat
court following the death of long-serving conservative Justice
Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13 at age 79. The lifetime appointment as
a Supreme Court justice requires Senate confirmation.

Trump has pledged to pick from a list of potential nominees
that were suggested to him by conservatives, including the
Federalist Society, a legal group for conservative lawyers.

He has the opportunity to name Scalia’s replacement only
because the Republican-led U.S. Senate, in an action with little
precedent in U.S. history, refused to consider Democratic
President Barack Obama’s nominee for the post, appeals court
judge Merrick Garland.

Obama, who handed over power to Trump on Friday, nominated
Garland on March 16, but Republican senators led by Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell denied Garland the customary confirmation
hearings and vote.

“We have outstanding candidates and we will pick a truly
great Supreme Court justice and I’ll be announcing it sometime
next week,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

With four conservative justices and four liberals, the
shorthanded court is deadlocked ideologically. A conservative
replacement for Scalia would restore the court’s narrow
conservative majority in place for decades.

Among those reported to be front-runners are three federal
appeals court judges with strong conservative credentials.

One is Judge William Pryor, who has been an outspoken critic
of the court’s 1973 ruling that legalized abortion. Another is
Judge Neil Gorsuch, who joined a ruling in 2013 saying that
owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a
provision of the Obamacare health law requiring employers to
provide insurance covering birth control for women.

Thomas Hardiman, a third federal appeals judge said to be in
contention, wrote an opinion in 2013 embracing a broad
interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s right to bear arms.

Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate. The minority Democrats, irate over Garland’s rebuff,
potentially could try to block the nomination using procedural
hurdles.

Tuesday’s meeting will include McConnell and Charles
Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee
that will consider the high court nominee, according to
McConnell. Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and Dianne
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, will
also attend.



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