President Barack Obama nominated veteran appellate court judge Merrick Garland to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday setting up a potentially ferocious political showdown with Senate Republicans who have vowed to block any Obama nominee.
Considered a moderate, Garland, 63, is currently chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He was picked to replace long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13.
I've selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America's sharpest legal minds but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence, Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.
”These qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle (Democrats and Republicans). He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court, an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately, Obama added.
Senate confirmation is required for any nominee to join the bench and Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on any nominee picked by the Democratic president for the lifetime position on the court.
Republicans are demanding that Obama leave the seat vacant and let the next president, to be elected in November and sworn in next January, make the selection.
In a foreshadowing of the pressure campaign the White House and its allies plan to wage in the coming weeks, the White House noted that seven current Republican US senators voted to confirm Garland to the DC Circuit court in 1997.
Garland, who has earned praise from lawmakers of both parties in the past, was named to his current job by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997, winning Senate confirmation in a 76-23 vote. Prior to that, he worked in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.
Without Scalia, the nine-member Supreme Court is evenly split with four liberals and four conservative justices. Obama's nominee could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades.
Republicans and their allies already have geared up to fight Obama's nominee. The Republican National Committee on Monday announced the formation of a task force that will work with an outside conservative group to spearhead attack ads and other ways of pushing back against Obama's choice.
Trump, speaking on ABC's Good Morning America program, said it was critical for Republicans to take back the White House to avoid Democrats shaping the Supreme Court.
You have four Supreme Court judgeships coming up, and that would mean they would take over, that would mean for 50 years, probably, this country will never be the same,” Trump said.