- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2018

President Trump is set to announce his Supreme Court pick Monday, appointing a jurist who has the chance to set the highest court on a new trajectory and deliver decisions to which conservatives have been looking forward for generations.

Issues ranging from abortion to the administrative state could be strongly influenced by the president’s appointment, who will fill the seat vacated by the court’s longtime swing vote, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

Mr. Trump will reveal the nomination at 9 p.m. at the White House but told reporters on his way back to Washington from a weekend at his New Jersey golf club that he hadn’t yet decided.

“I’m very close to making a final decision. And I believe this person will do a great job,” he said.

Later, he tweeted that he was looking forward to the announcement and that an “exceptional person will be chosen!”

Leonard Leo, a vice president at the Federalist Society who is on leave to assist Mr. Trump, said the chance to nominate a second jurist in two years is the president’s prize for making the Supreme Court a major selling point in the 2016 presidential race.

“What drives the president in this process is that he made the Supreme Court a huge issue in the election, more than any other presidential candidate, he greatly enthused voters over it,” Mr. Leo said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And it was one of the big factors that led to his election and holding the U.S. Senate. And so he kept that momentum going with Neil Gorsuch, and now he’s got another opportunity to do it again.”

Mr. Trump was asked Sunday how many names he was considering and said, “Let’s say it’s the four people. … They’re excellent, every one. You can’t go wrong.”

The four names on the shortlist are reportedly Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Thomas Hardiman of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Judge Raymond Kethledge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The vacancy on the court could not have come at a worse time for vulnerable Senate Democrats from red states.

Heading into November midterm elections, lawmakers such as Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana face the difficult decision of whether to back Mr. Trump’s nominee — which could help them win re-election, but at the cost of aggravating the Democratic Party’s aggressive left wing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said some Democrats could defect from the party. He said all four judges on Mr. Trump’s shortlist are highly qualified to fill the vacancy on the highest court.

“This is a nightmare for red-state Democrats to oppose a highly qualified nominee, and all four of these people are highly qualified — been on the court, know what they’re doing, mainstream judges,” Mr. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “So red-state Democrats are going to have a very hard decision.”

Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate, 51 to 49. They need only 50 votes to confirm Mr. Trump’s nominee because Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

The vote is complicated by the absence of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who returned home for treatment for brain cancer and hasn’t voted in months. If Mr. McCain is not able to vote, only one Republican would have to defect to derail the confirmation, assuming the Democrats maintain perfect party discpline.

Every Republican voted last year to confirm Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who filled the vacancy left on the court by the late Antonin Scalia. In that vote, three Democrats — Ms. Heitkamp, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana — backed the Gorsuch pick.

A confirmation of Mr. Trump’s nominee could give conservatives a reliable, long-term majority on the highest court.

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is too important for political considerations.

“It is a dilemma in one respect but not in another,” Mr. Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I will tell you the men and women I work with on the Democratic side really take this seriously. They understand it’s an historic decision. It’s about more than the next election. It’s about what country — the United States of America — is going to chart as its course in the future on this Supreme Court. I think each and every one of them take that seriously, that personally. It goes beyond the next election.”

Asked whether he would back Mr. Trump’s pick, Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Democrat, said he would make an “independent judgment” after reviewing the nominee’s record.

“I don’t think anyone should expect me to simply vote yes for this nominee just simply because my state may be more conservative than others,” Mr. Jones said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think even the people of Alabama like to make sure they have judges that adhere to the rule of law.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, said the deck was already stacked when Mr. Trump consulted with the Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation to create a list of 25 judges to fill future vacancies on the highest court.

“I’ve never seen a president of the United States, in effect, make himself a puppet of outside groups and choose from a group of right-wing fringe ideologues that are prepared on this list,” Mr. Blumenthal said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Regardless of what red-state Democrats decide, Republicans are confident that they can pass whomever Mr. Trump nominates.

Mr. Leo said the judges on the president’s shortlist are “extraordinarily distinguished people.”

“I’m very confident with this president’s enthusiasm and with Leader McConnell’s enthusiasm that they can get anybody confirmed,” Mr. Leo said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said all of the judges under consideration would be “fine justices of the Supreme Court.”

“I think we can confirm any of the four names being mentioned,” he said.

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