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 tumultuous debate that saw Republicans overhaul the way the chamber operates in order to overcome what they described as an unprecedented Democratic filibuster.
The 54-45 vote, in which three Democrats crossed party lines to support the appeals court justice, is expected to restore a 5-4 conservative tilt on the bench. Once sworn in, Gorsuch will join the court and begin to hear cases, in the seat once held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died 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 lauded 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. More broadly, Democrats remain furious that Republicans under McConnell’s leadership blocked consideration of former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, in turn allowing Trump to nominate Gorsuch.
These partisan tensions exploded on the Senate floor this week, as Democrats mounted a filibuster against Gorsuch, prompting Republicans to use what’s known as the “nuclear option” Thursday to force a final vote.
Each party blamed the other for the escalation, accusing the other side of damaging long-standing institutions.
“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.