Neil Gorsuch Confirmed to Supreme Court
The Senate has voted to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, taking the seat left vacant since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. Gorsuch, 49, will become the 113th justice to sit on the court.
On Friday, all Senate Republicans were joined by three Democrats in a final vote of 54–45 in favor of confirmation. Judge Gorsuch will likely be sworn in in the next couple of days so that he can join the court for the remainder of the current term, which ends in June. This ends the longest Supreme Court vacancy since the Civil War, nearly 14 months.
The confirmation comes after an extended period of extreme partisan tension in the Senate. Earlier this week, Democrats filibustered Judge Gorsuch's confirmation in an attempt to block any vote. Republicans responded by employing the so-called "nuclear option," which eliminates the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. The move reduced the amount of votes needed to bring Judge Gorsuch's nomination to a floor vote from 60 to a simple majority.
Partisan bitterness over judicial nominations reached this peak after a long period of mutual animosity. Democrats were furious when the Republican-controlled Senate refused to even consider President Obama's nominee to replace Justice Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland, last year, denying not only and up-or-down vote but even merely a hearing.
It was an unprecedented move that brought Supreme Court nominations to the forefront of the 2016 presidential election. When Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kent.) blocked Judge Garland, leaving an extremely valuable Supreme Court seat open for more than a year, he supplied Republican voters with an issue that brought many of them around to supporting then-candidate Donald Trump, about whom many conservatives had expressed doubts. It may have been enough to tilt the election to the GOP.
"He's going to make an incredible addition to the court," Senator McConnell said on the Senate floor, following the vote.
The ascension of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court restores the conservative 5–4 majority at least until another justice steps down. Had Judge Garland taken the seat, it would have been the first time the court had a liberal tilt in a generation.
It is a major victory for the Trump administration, securing a promise he made during the campaign to appoint right-leaning judges to the federal judiciary, particularly the nation's highest court. The president has yet to address the confirmation, but is expected to do so shortly.