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Trump's Supreme Court Pick Neil Gorsuch Makes Courtesy Call To Obama's Pick Merrick Garland

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The first phone call Judge Neil Gorsuch made after being nominated to the Supreme Court was to Judge Merrick Garland -- former President Barack Obama's pick for the bench.

It was a courtesy call by Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's selection for the longstanding vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia a year ago.

The Republican-led Senate never acted on Garland's nomination for that seat, much to the irritation of Democrats who are now threatening to make trouble for Gorsuch's bid.

The phone call by Gorsuch was confirmed by Ron Bonjean, who is assisting the judge through the nominations process

Senate Republicans are standing united behind Trump's nomination of Gorsuch and are bracing for a protracted fight with Democrats over a conservative judge similar in philosophy to the late Scalia.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Gorsuch, a Denver-based judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, "has an impressive background and a long record of faithfully applying the law and the Constitution." One after the other, Senate Republicans echoed the leader, describing Gorsuch as a well-qualified jurist.

With Vice President Mike Pence by his side, Gorsuch met with McConnell on Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

President Donald Trump announced his choice of the Colorado appeals court judge at the White House on Tuesday night.

"I promised to select someone who respects our laws and is representative of our constitution, and loves our constitution," Trump said.

With degrees from Columbia, Harvard Law and Oxford University, Gorsuch has modeled his judicial philosophy after Antonin Scalia, the justice he would replace.

"It is the role of judges to apply, not alter the work of the people's representatives A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands," Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch ruled in the controversial Hobby Lobby case, siding with an employer who did not want to cover employee contraceptive care for religious reasons.

If confirmed, the 49-year-old Gorsuch would be the youngest justice on the court and could be shaping decisions for decades.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal will vet Gorsuch during a confirmation hearing, WCBS 880's Fran Schneidau reported.

For Blumenthal, what is most important is the impact of Gorsuch's opinions and views. 

"Some of his opinions, unfortunately, demonstrate a hostility towards privacy rights -- including women's healthcare, worker and consumer protections, public health and safety," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said he will scrutinize Gorsuch's record. As of now, Blumenthal said he has reached no conclusion on the nominee.

Meanwhile, President Trump marked Black History Month Wednesday morning by sitting with African-American officials and supporters at the White House, discussing big issues, like the ongoing violence in Chicago.

More: Black History Month Events In NYC

"I was recently contacted by some of the top gang thugs in Chicago for a sit down," Pastor Darrell Scott said. "They associated me with you. They respect you. They believe in what you're doing, and they want to have a sit down about lowering that body count."

"If they're not going to solve the problem, and what you're doing is the right thing, then we're going to solve the problem for them," Trump said. "Because we're going to have to do something about Chicago because what's happening in Chicago should not be happening in this country."

On Capitol Hill, a senate committee approved Trump's picks for Treasury Secretary and Health Secretary, without any Democrats present.

"We took some unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues," Orrin Hatch said.

Democrats boycotted the meeting, demanding more time to question health nominee Tom Price and treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin.

The GOP majority then suspended the rule that required at least one Democrat to be present for votes.

Both nominees will now go to the full senate for a confirmation vote.

On Wednesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee vowed to approve Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. The vote came after Democratic Sen. Al Franken accused Sessions of claiming to be involved in past civil rights cases that he wasn't.

"The fact of the matter is, senator sessions misrepresented his record," Franken said.

Republicans have previously accused Democrats of misrepresenting Sessions' record. The approval will now go to the full senate for a vote.

The full senate will also vote on Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson Wednesday afternoon.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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