President Donald Trump will announce his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court during a nationally televised address Tuesday, as he seeks to fill the vacant seat on a high court that is essentially evenly split along ideological lines.
WATCH: Trump on his Supreme Court pick
Trump said Monday his choice is “unbelievably highly respected” and predicted Americans “will be very impressed with this person,” but offered no further details.
“He is 100 percent sure he is the pick,” said White House Spokesman Sean Spicer during a briefing Monday. He added the president’s nominee was selected from a list of 21 contenders drawn up by conservative groups.
The selection will likely trigger an intense battle over who will fill the position and serve as a lifetime jurist with the potential to tilt the high court’s rulings for many years to come.
Trump appears to be ready to return the nine-member high court to a conservative majority.All three top contenders were appointed to the bench by Republican former President George W. Bush.
They include: former Alabama Attorney General William “Bill” Pryor, who sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; Neil Gorsuch, who serves on the federal appeals court’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver; and Thomas Hardiman of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in western Pennsylvania.
If confirmed, the jurist will fill the seat left vacant after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016.
During a campaign debate, Trump said he wanted to appoint a judge “much in the mold of Judge Scalia,” later adding, “People that will respect the constitution of the United States.”
The lifetime appointment as a Supreme Court justice requires Senate confirmation.
President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat last March. But Republican lawmakers in the Senate refused to hold confirmation hearings on Obama’s choice, saying the seat should be filled by the next president.
Now, Senate Democrats are vowing to block Trump’s pick, accusing Republicans of stealing the Supreme Court seat.
Senate Democrats have signaled they plan to filibuster and force a 60-vote majority to confirm the nominee. Currently, Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said his party planned to fight “tooth and nail” against any Trump nominee who is not “mainstream.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer fired back Monday, saying, “For a party preaching tolerance, it’s interesting to see some Democrats have already come out against this unnamed individual."
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