Donald Trump's SCOTUS pick: What chance does Neil Gorsuch have of being confirmed?

Donald Trump's SCOTUS pick: What chance does Neil Gorsuch have of being confirmed?

Donald Trump's SCOTUS pick: What chance does Neil Gorsuch have of being confirmed?

Updated 2 February 2017, 6:35 AEDT

Republicans might need to make an unprecedented move to get Donald Trump's nominee onto the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump has revealed Neil Gorsuch as his pick for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

In typical Trump style, the President appeared in a splashy prime-time television special to make the announcement.

But, as Merrick Garland found out, just being nominated by the president is no guarantee you've got the job.

Mr Garland was nominated by then-president Barack Obama last year to fill the vacancy caused by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

But thanks to the efforts of congressional Republicans, Mr Garland never even made it to a hearing.

It's likely Mr Trump's pick will face similar hurdles.

Is this normally how a SCOTUS nomination is announced?

Uh, nope.

According to the New York Times, what we saw was "The Apprentice, SCOTUS Edition".

Television networks cut into prime-time programming to televise the announcement, and it was reported by CNN that the final two contenders travelled to Washington for the announcement.

Sound familiar?

What happens now?

Mr Gorsuch is supposed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing, where he'll be peppered with questions about his suitability for the job and his views on a range of constitutional issues.

Once the hearings have finished, his nomination faces a vote of the full Senate.

A simple majority is needed to confirm Mr Gorsuch's appointment, and then he can take his place as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

But we're in 2017. This confirmation process is likely to be a long way from normal (or easy).

Can Democrats stop the nomination?


Senior lecturer in American Politics and Foreign Policy at the United States Studies Centre, David Smith, says Democrats can use what is known as a filibuster to stop Mr Gorsuch's nomination from even coming to a vote.

"While nominations only require 51 Senate votes to pass, 60 votes are required to break a filibuster, and Republicans only have 52 votes in the Senate," he said.

A filibuster is when a senator delays a vote by extending debate on an issue (in this case, the SCOTUS nomination). They do this by talking, about anything, for as long as they can.

In December 2010, Bernie Sanders spoke for more than eight hours (!) to protest against a tax-cut deal president Barack Obama made with Republicans.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he is prepared to leave the seat on the court open if Democrats don't approve of Mr Trump's pick.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley has said he will filibuster any pick from Mr Trump that isn't Merrick Garland.

If that happens, Mr Smith says Republicans will have to decide if they'll exercise the "nuclear option".

What's the 'nuclear option'?

Essentially, it means changing the rules of the Senate to allow a Supreme Court nomination to be passed with a simple majority of votes (instead of the 60 that are required if Democrats decide to filibuster the nomination).

The trouble is that rule would then apply to every piece of legislation, drastically altering the traditional role of the Senate, according to the Washington Post.

Mr Smith says it's something neither Democrats nor Republicans want to do.

"A lot of Democrats are wary of how this could limit their potency in the future, and so may want to allow the nomination through," he said.

"However, Republicans may also be wary of creating a precedent with the nuclear option that could be used against them the next time they're the minority."

If you thought the election campaign was brutal, Mr Smith says the process to confirmation for Mr Trump's SCOTUS pick isn't likely to be any less contentious.

"In general, this is likely to contribute to the general atmosphere of hyper-partisanship in Washington."