Washington, D.C.

Senate confirms Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice

Judge Neil Gorsuch becomes the 113th justice of the court, capping a political brawl that lasted more than a year.
Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies on the second day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2017.
Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies on the second day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2017.

WASHINGTON — Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate on Friday to become the 113th justice of the Supreme Court, capping a political brawl that lasted for more than a year and tested constitutional norms inside the Capitol’s fraying upper chamber.

The development was a signal triumph for President Donald Trump, whose campaign last year rested in large part on his pledge to appoint another committed conservative to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. However rocky the first months of his administration may have been, Trump now has a lasting legacy: Gorsuch, 49, could serve on the court for 30 years or more.

Vice President Mike Pence presided over the final vote Friday, a show of force for the White House on a day when his tiebreaking vote as president of the Senate was not necessary. The final tally was 54-45 in favor of confirmation.

The confirmation was also a vindication of the bare-knuckled strategy of Senate Republicans, who refused even to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Merrick B. Garland, saying the choice of the next justice should belong to the next president.

Yet the bruising confrontation has left the Senate a changed place. Friday’s vote was only possible after the Senate discarded long-standing rules meant to ensure mature deliberation and bipartisan cooperation, particularly in considering Supreme Court nominees. On Thursday, after Democrats waged a filibuster against Gorsuch, denying him the 60 votes required to advance to a final vote, Republicans invoked the so-called nuclear option: lowering the threshold on Supreme Court nominations to a simple majority vote.

“They have had other choices,” Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said of Republicans, after arguing for weeks that the nomination should be withdrawn if Gorsuch could not earn 60 votes. “They have chosen this one.”

A week from Monday, Gorsuch will put on his robes, follow the court’s custom of shaking hands with each of his colleagues and ascend to the Supreme Court bench to hear his first arguments. A ninth chair, absent since the spring of 2016, will be waiting for him.

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