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Ayotte to lead White House team shepherding Supreme Court nominee

From Wire Reports
January 31. 2017 7:22PM

WASHINGTON — Former New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte will lead a team of political veterans chosen by the White House to help shepherd President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court through the U.S. Senate — Neil Gorsuch.

Trump named the 49-year-old federal appeals court judge Tuesday night as his choice to restore the court’s conservative majority and help shape rulings on divisive issues such as abortion, gun control, the death penalty and religious rights.

The Colorado native faces a potentially contentious confirmation battle in the U.S. Senate after Republicans last year refused to consider Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy caused by the February 2016 death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch is the youngest nominee to the nation’s highest court in more than a quarter-century.

He is a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was appointed to that post by Republican President George W. Bush in 2006.

He is considered a conservative intellectual, known for backing religious rights, and is seen as very much in the mold of Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the court for decades.

Ayotte, a relatively moderate Republican, will serve as the nominee’s so-called sherpa, personally introducing Gorsuch to senators and escorting him to meetings and the confirmation hearing.

A senior White House official detailed the assignments on the condition of anonymity. The assignments were first reported by the Washington Post.

Ayotte, who narrowly lost reelection last fall, is an unlikely selection by Trump considering she spoke out against his candidacy and was seen as having been on a blacklist for appointments to the new administration.

But Trump and his advisers sought Ayotte’s help guiding the nominee through the Senate, where she could use her personal relationships with centrist senators to attract Democratic support.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to assist the administration with the confirmation process for the next conservative Supreme Court nominee,” Ayotte told the Union Leader Tuesday evening.

New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jeanie Forrester said in a statement, "As our state's first female Attorney General and former US Senator, President Trump could not have picked a better advisor and counselor than Kelly Ayotte to help guide (Gorsuch) through the nomination process."

Gorsuch lives in Boulder, Colo., where he raises horses and is a lifelong outdoorsman.

He attended Columbia University and, like several of the other justices of the court, Harvard Law School. He also completed a doctorate in legal philosophy at Oxford University, spent several years in private practice and worked in George W. Bush’s Justice Department.

Gorsuch joined an opinion in 2013 saying that owners of private companies could object on religious grounds to a provision of the Obamacare health insurance law requiring employers to provide coverage for birth control for women.

“By nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, President Trump has appointed a mainstream conservative justice who will follow in the footsteps of the great Justice Scalia,” the NH GOP said in a statement.

The Washington Post and Reuters contributed to this report.

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