The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Friday, filling the critical ninth seat that has been vacant for over a year and capping a fiery debate that saw Republicans change Senate rules in order to overcome an unprecedented Democratic filibuster.
Three Democrats voted in favor of confirming Gorsuch, which resulted in a 54-45 final vote. The confirmation gives conservatives a 5-4 advantage on the Supreme Court. Once sworn in, Gorsuch will join the court and begin hearing cases, replacing the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February 2016.
“He’s going to make the American people proud,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
President Trump congratulated Gorsuch via his official White House Twitter account:
Republicans praised Gorsuch as an eminently qualified jurist and a fitting successor to Scalia. But Democrats accused him of giving evasive answers during his confirmation hearing, and claimed his past rulings showed a tendency to favor business interests over workers. In addition, Democrats are still furious that Republicans, under McConnell’s leadership, blocked consideration of former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, which led to Trump nominating Gorsuch.
Republicans were forced to use the “nuclear option” to confirm Judge Gorsuch after Democrats mounted a filibuster against him.
Both Republicans and Democrats blame each other for escalating the situation, as well as damaging the rules of the Senate.
“Damage was done to our democracy,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Friday. “Raw political power has been exercised to break the rules and norms of this body.”
But McConnell claimed that Republicans only triggered the nuclear option to “restore norms” that Democrats had defied.
On Thursday, Democrats blocked Gorsuch’s confirmation, denying him the 60 votes he needed to continue to a final roll call. McConnell then was forced to motion a series of parliamentary maneuvers that resulted in the threshold being lowered to 51 votes. With that standard, Gorsuch easily advanced to the final vote on Friday.
Fox News reported earlier that McConnell said he made the move “for the sake of our country.”
McConnell’s predecessor as Senate majority leader Harry Reid, now retired, took the first step down the “nuclear” road by lowering the threshold for other nominees in 2013 – a controversial move Republicans frequently brought up on the road to Friday’s final vote.
All Republicans present voted yes on Friday; Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., struggling with health issues, did not vote. Vice President Pence presided.
Gorsuch is expected to be sworn in on Monday.