16 April, 2017
Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court on Friday, wrapping up a contentious 14-month battle that fundamentally altered how future justices will be seated on the nation's highest court. McConnell, R-Ky., immediately responded, as expected, by leading his Republicans in a unilateral rules change to lower the vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees from 60 to a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.
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.
Gorsuch will be sworn in Monday and will quickly begin confronting cases of effect, including one involving separation of church and state that the justices will take up in less than two weeks.
Justices take two oaths, one required by the Constitution and the other set by federal law. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy will administer the judicial oath at a public ceremony at the White House later that day. With many current SCOTUS members very high in years, and the recent passing of Justice Scalia (who Gorsuch will now replace having finally been confirmed), the inevitable shift in the current seated justices (and subsequently, the direction the court may go from there) has been signaling off for a little while, now.
Senators from both parties have warned that the move will have profound consequences for the Supreme Court, predicting that more ideologically extreme judges on the right and left will be nominated to the court if only a majority is needed for confirmation. In the end, the campaign on Gorsuch's behalf helped to unite Republicans but wooed less than a handful of Democrats to his side, leaving McConnell to deploy the nuclear option.
"Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist No. 78 that the court has 'neither force nor will, but merely judgment.' I think that is what we should be looking for in a nominee to any court, but especially the Supreme Court", said Sen.
The Senate confirmed Gorsuch with a 54-45 vote.
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, had attempted to delay the effort to change the rules until after the two-week congressional recess, but failed to secure enough votes to proceed that way.
Gorsuch's first official act would be to participate in the justices' private April 13 conference to consider new cases to hear.
"Judge Gorsuch is a highly qualified, mainstream judge who will apply the law as written, rather than alter the law to achieve the outcome he desires".
The new justice is also a conservative who adheres to numerous same positions that Scalia did. Senate Republicans' refusal to consider Garland - chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a traditional steppingstone to the Supreme Court - colored Democrats' reception to Gorsuch since his nomination January 31.
The signatures of 28 Republicans, 32 Democrats and one independent is evidence that a broad mix of senators will back the filibuster for legislation.
Thursday's vote means that from now on, all nominations, including those to the Supreme Court, can be quickly approved by a majority vote in the Senate. "It will make the cooling saucer of the Senate considerably hotter, and I believe it will make the Supreme Court a more partisan place". And in many ways the showdown had been pre-ordained, the final chapter in years of partisan warfare over judicial nominees.