The White House is expected to announce a new list of potential supreme court justices as soon as Wednesday, a move designed to shore up conservative support for Donald Trump as his race for the White House against Joe Biden enters the final stretch.
Trump’s decision to name a list of possible picks during the 2016 election is widely seen to have boosted support among conservatives otherwise queasy about backing him against Hillary Clinton. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both now on the court, were included on that list of reliably conservative picks.
Last week, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, flagged the impending announcement, telling reporters: “You will see it soon.” On Tuesday, Politico reported that the list was imminent.
Trump signaled he was compiling a new list after a pair of supreme court rulings went against his administration in June.
The updated list is expected to include many of the 2016 lineup, including Raymond Kethledge, 53, an appeals court judge on the sixth circuit, and Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a member of the seventh circuit appeals court.
Both were reported to have been close to being nominated when Kavanaugh was picked in late 2018, to fill a seat vacated by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh, a former White House aide to George W Bush, was confirmed after contentious confirmation hearings featuring allegations of sexual assault, which he vehemently denied.
After Trump’s two picks, conservatives hold a 5-4 majority on the supreme court, where seats are vacated by the retirement or death of an incumbent. Over the summer, the liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, has announced health problems including treatment for cancer.
Trump promotes his judicial appointments as perhaps his most important accomplishment. A Biden presidency, he warns, would mean more liberals on the highest court.
But Trump’s appointees have not always performed as anticipated. This summer, for example, Gorsuch sided with the chief justice, John Roberts, and the liberal justices to guarantee protection from discrimination in the workplace for LGBTQ individuals – a disappointment to conservatives.
Last month, Vice-President Mike Pence told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Roberts, who was appointed by George W Bush, had been “a disappointment to conservatives”.
But Trump’s appointments to lower courts offer plentiful consolation. During his first term, nearly 200 judges have been installed with lifetime appointments.
Of those, Trump has appointed 194, or 24% of the total. Barack Obama appointed the largest share of currently active federal judges, 39%. Of judges still sitting, George W Bush appointed 21% and 11% were appointed by Bill Clinton.
Much smaller shares were appointed by George HW Bush (2%) and Ronald Reagan (2%). A single federal judge, Puerto Rico’s Carmen Consuelo Cerezo, dates her appointment to Jimmy Carter’s administration.