WASHINGTON — President Trump met with Senate and Judiciary Committee leaders today to discuss his impending nomination for the Supreme Court, which he told media during an executive order signing would be announced next week.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump “has made it incredibly clear that he will appoint justices who protect our liberty and hold the highest regards for the Constitution.”
“He continues to carefully consider potential future justices based on the commitment to upholding these principles,” Spicer said, adding that the meeting was “an important opportunity for the president to consult with Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle on his potential choices for the bench.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has threatened to hold up a nominee as Senate Republicans did in the final months of President Obama’s term, reiterated after the meeting that Trump “should pick a mainstream nominee who could earn bipartisan support for the vacant Supreme Court seat.”
“I reiterated that view in our meeting today, and told him that Senate Democrats would fight any nominee that was outside of the mainstream,” Schumer said.
Spicer referred back to the list of potential nominees that Trump issued during the campaign, and called it “pretty mainstream to support the Constitution, pretty mainstream to respect, to follow the law and not to create laws from the bench.”
“That’s what I think the majority of Americans would agree and I think, you know, when it comes to the candidates that he’s put up for his Cabinet, you know, again, look at the quality and caliber of these individuals,” he added. “That’s what he’s kind of continuing to look for, people of high quality, of high caliber that have gone — you know, that fit the philosophy that he campaigned on.”
CBS reported that the list appears whittled down to two men: Federal district court judge Thomas Hardiman and appellate judge Neil Gorsuch. Both have met with Trump, reported Bloomberg, whose source added that appellate judges William Pryor (who was Sen. Jeff Sessions’ deputy when he was Alabama attorney general) and Raymond Kethledge are also still possibilities.
Spicer said the meeting with senators was “to hear their input on what they want, how far he wants to extend himself on where he is on the — on his thought process.”
“But I think he wants to hear what they’re looking for in a judge, maybe any ideas that they have,” he said.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said before the meeting, which also included Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), that it was all “part of the consultation process — the Constitution says advise and consent.”
“And we will be taking the opportunity to give advice on a bipartisan basis to the president prior to his decision about who to send up,” McConnell added.
The GOP leader said he expects “our Democratic friends will treat President Trump’s nominees in the same way that we treated Clinton and Obama’s.”
“There’s a big difference between not approving a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of a highly contested presidential election, and the beginning of a four-year term. So let’s take a look at Clinton and Obama with Supreme Court vacancies in their first terms. Under Clinton, Ginsburg and Breyer; no filibuster, no filibuster. In other words, no one required us to get 60 votes. Under Obama, Sotomayor and Kagan; no filibusters. That’s apples and apples,” McConnell said. “First term, new president, Supreme Court vacancy.”
Schumer told reporters outside of a closed caucus meeting on Capitol Hill that “we’re not playing tit for tat here.”
“We want a mainstream nominee because that’s the right thing for America. And that’s why I for one, when we were looking at changing the rules, insisted that 60 votes remain for that position because that would mean that you’d garnered bipartisan support,” Schumer said.
“The last four Supreme Court justices got bipartisan support and it’s essential that the president do that. We would believe that for instance – we’re not going to say there shouldn’t be a hearing. A hearing will bring out what the – what this nominee is all about,” he added, alluding to Grassley’s refusal to hold Judiciary hearings for Obama nominee Merrick Garland. “We’re not going to do what the Republicans did — but if the candidate’s out of the mainstream, I can tell you, I will fight and my caucus will fight tooth and nail against them.”