Updated 6:35 p.m. | President Donald Trump plans to announce his Supreme Court appointment next week, almost a year after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death launched a political dispute that left his seat vacant.
“I’ll be making my decision this week and we’ll be announcing next week,” Trump said Tuesday. “We have outstanding candidates and we will pick a truly great Supreme Court justice. But I’ll be announcing it sometime next week.”
Trump made the comments after inviting Senate leaders to the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that he’s been invited along with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and the leaders of the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Charles E. Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
Grassley in a written statement after the meeting called it “a productive and frank discussion.”
The White House schedule notes a 45-minute meeting for the four Senate leaders, followed by Trump meeting with McConnell alone.
McConnell told reporters at the Capitol that the Senate leaders will take the opportunity to give advice on Trump’s decision “on who to send up.”
Trump released the names of 21 potential Supreme Court picks during the campaign, and the state and federal judges listed have been widely supported in conservative legal circles. Media have reported various finalists in the past week, including U.S. Court of Appeals Judges Neil Gorsuch of Colorado, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania and William Pryor of Alabama, all George W. Bush appointees.
“I anticipate what we’re going to get from the president is a highly qualified, well-credentialed conservative jurist,” McConnell said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump will look for a Supreme Court nominee who upholds “liberty” and the Constitution, and avoids making laws via their decisions. “I think it’s pretty mainstream to support the Constitution,” he said.
Schumer said that he and his Democratic colleagues would fight if a candidate is “out of the mainstream,” but said they won’t be obstructing just because Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s pick for the same vacancy for nine months. Scalia died on Feb. 13 last year, and Republicans did not hold a confirmation hearing or a Senate floor vote for Judge Merrick Garland.
“We’re not playing tit for tat here. We want a mainstream nominee because that’s what’s right for America,” Schumer told reporters at the Capitol. “It means you follow existing law, that you don’t use the court to change things around to your personal ideological likes and predilections.”
Democrats could hold the high court seat open under Senate rules with 41 votes, since it would take 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and allow a vote on the nominee. (Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate to 48 for the Democrats.)
McConnell said Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not face filibusters for their Supreme Court picks. “What we hope is our Democratic friends will treat Trump’s nominees in the same way we treated Clinton and Obama,” the Republican leader said.
If Democrats filibuster the pick, it could lead to a showdown over Senate rules.
McConnell on “Fox News Sunday” simply said that the Trump nominee will be confirmed when asked about the so-called nuclear option of changing those rules so 51 votes could overcome a filibuster. Democrats made that change in 2013 for all judicial nominees except those to the Supreme Court.
“But would you consider extending the nuclear option and saying, even for Supreme Court justices, just a simple majority?” Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked.
“The nominee will be confirmed,” McConnell said.
Niels Lesniewski and John T. Bennett contributed to this report.