- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Donald Trump offered up a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees Wednesday, as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee sought to reassure conservatives he understands the importance of the high court battle already raging.

The list includes three women and eight men from both federal and state supreme courts. It includes noteworthy conservative champions, particularly on the issue of abortion, and it signals that Mr. Trump would welcome the fierce confirmation fights that would likely erupt if he were to follow through on some of his potential picks.

For conservative voters who put the Supreme Court at the top of their voting issues, the list is likely to assuage some of the lingering concerns about whether Mr. Trump would heed them once he’s in the White House.

The billionaire businessman’s list should also help stiffen the spines of some Republican senators, who are under intense pressure to cave in the ongoing fight to fill the vacant seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“As president, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices,” Mr. Trump said in a statement detailing the 11 names.

Perhaps most controversial is U.S. Circuit Judge William H. Pryor Jr., who faced a Democratic filibuster when he was nominated to the appeals court by President George W. Bush in 2003. Mr. Trump’s list also includes several other federal judges who have ruled in groundbreaking pro-life cases, as well as state judges who’ve earned high marks from local Republicans.

One of those, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, has an active Twitter account, where he’s taken shots at Mr. Trump during the campaign — but Trump supporter Sen. Jeff Sessions said on Fox News that including Judge Willett is more evidence that the candidate can work with a broad range of people, as long as they are solid on constitutional principles.

Still, Democrats said Judge Willett showed even Mr. Trump’s own potential picks can’t stomach him, and they ramped up their efforts to try to get the Senate to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, who President Obama has picked to fill the Scalia seat.

In their latest move, Democrats on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a mock confirmation hearing Wednesday — an exercise in political theater — hosting witnesses who described Judge Garland as a caring family man who can handle the toughest of assignments.

“Merrick is calm under pressure,” said Donna Bucella, who worked with Judge Garland in the Justice Department on the Oklahoma City bombing case in 1995. “You never really know what’s going on in his head. He’s always 25 steps ahead of everybody else.”

After the hourlong forum, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the panel, said it was “obviously not a substitute for a hearing with Judge Garland,” but said it gave the judge’s fans a chance to respond to some of the criticism of the nominee.

“I get frustrated when I hear some of these lobbying groups go on attacks against him,” Mr. Leahy said. “He can’t respond to them.”

In a real confirmation hearing, Mr. Leahy said, “He’d swat them down.”

At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Trump’s list of names lacked a single “consensus” pick.

“I think that speaks to the wisdom of the Senate acting on the president’s nomination,” Mr. Earnest said.

The record, however, suggests Mr. Earnest may have been wrong in his evaluation of Mr. Trump’s potential picks.

At least three of the names on the new list were confirmed to federal appellate courts unanimously or with only a single vote opposed in the Senate. That’s better than Judge Garland, who was confirmed to the D.C. bench on a 76-23 vote in 1997.

In addition to Judge Pryor and Justice Willett, Mr. Trump’s list included: U.S. Circuit Judges Steven Colloton, Raymond Gruender, Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Diane Sykes; Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras and Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee, brother of current U.S. Sen. Mike Lee.

Two of those — Judge Pryor and Judge Kethledge — were caught up in Senate Democrats’ blockade of Mr. Bush’s judicial picks in the last decade.

Mr. Bush initially installed Judge Pryor as a recess appointment before a bipartisan deal cleared his path, and he was eventually confirmed on a 53-45 vote. The roadblock to Judge Kethledge was also cleared by a bipartisan deal, and he was confirmed on a voice vote.

Judge Pryor, Judge Colloton and Judge Gruender all have written or joined rulings cheered by pro-life advocates. The latter two judges both upheld a South Dakota law that required abortionists to tell patients that women who have the procedure have a higher correlation with suicides.

For his part, Judge Pryor, at his confirmation hearing to the appeals court, stood by his evaluation that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a national right to abortion was a legal “abomination.”

“This is an exceptionally strong list of jurists with immense respect for our founding documents,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, who said the list helps solidify the dividing line between Mr. Trump and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“This is not an election for pro-lifers to sit out,” she said.

⦁ Seth McLaughlin contributed to this article.


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