Trump picks Gorsuch for U.S. Supreme Court, bypassing Willett

President Donald Trump on Tuesday named U.S. appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, picking him from a list of candidates that had included Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett.

In a primetime announcement, Trump said Gorsuch, who sits on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, will replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump had put Willett on an initial list of 11 judges he would consider tapping for the Supreme Court. That list later grew to 21 names.

“The president made a magnificent choice,” Willett said in an email after Trump’s announcement. “Judge Gorsuch is a superb jurist with an unswerving devotion to the Constitution and the Rule of Law.”

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Willett had never indicated whether he was willing to serve on the high court. His only public statement on being considered expressed respect for the fellow judges on the list and said it spoke to the importance of the state judiciary.

Another Texan, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, had been mentioned as a possible appointment to the high court. In recent weeks, however, he has said he is happy to stay in the Senate and fight to implement Trump’s agenda.

Cruz did have a hand in Trump’s deliberations. The Texas senator successfully pushed to get a friend, fellow Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, on the list as a condition for his endorsement of Trump in September.

Cruz had also pushed Trump to promise to only pick from the list of 21 judges to replace Scalia. After the announcement, Cruz recognized Trump for sticking to his word — and lavished praise on Gorsuch.

“Like the renowned justice he is set to replace, Judge Gorsuch is brilliant and immensely talented,” Cruz said in a statement. “I couldn’t be happier with his selection.”

Cruz is likely to play a leading role in the fight to get Gorsuch confirmed. The Texas senator has said all options should be on the table to make sure Trump’s Supreme Court nominee reaches the bench, including changing Senate rules.

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“One way or another, I believe the Senate will confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court,” Cruz said in an appearance on Fox News. “The Democrats are not going to succeed in filibustering this nomination.”

Gorsuch also won plaudits from Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who sought to get ahead of the coming battle over Gorsuch’s confirmation.

“The President has picked a mainstream nominee unanimously supported by Democrats in the past,” Cornyn said in a statement.

Texas Democrats, for their part, panned Trump’s selection of Gorsuch, saying in a statement that the judge “has a record of siding with rich and powerful corporations against workers.”