AFTER tensions flew over who'd replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed on Friday, April 7 as the 113th justice of the nation's highest court.
Senate Republican leaders countered with the so-called "nuclear option," a maneuver that changed the chamber's rules so that moving Gorsuch - and all subsequent Supreme Court nominees - to a final vote requires a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the traditional 60 votes.
Senator Steve Daines issued a statement Friday saying, "Judge Gorsuch is mainstream and he's not going to legislate from the bench". GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia did not vote.
This was a major win for President Donald Trump as he promised the Republicans a year ago during his campaign that he would appoint a committed conservative to the post after Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016.
The vote came a day after Republicans used their majority to exercise the "nuclear option", altering Senate rules to defeat a Democratic procedural blockade of the nominee, known as a filibuster.
McConnell vowed to preserve the 60-vote filibuster threshold on regular legislation, as opposed to nominations, which will continue to act as a tool forcing bipartisan outcomes and ensuring participation from the minority party.
McConnell himself told reporters Friday that "the most consequential decision I've ever been involved in was the decision to let the president being elected past year pick the Supreme Court nominee". A judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch received a well-qualified rating from the ABA.
"We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court", said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY.
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Gorsuch's name was on a list of potential choices Trump produced during the campaign, and was vetted by conservative groups including the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
Justices take two oaths, one required by the Constitution and the other set by federal law. Three Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for Gorsuch.
A conservative-majority court is more likely to support gun rights, abortion regulations, an expansive view of religious liberty and Republican-backed voting restrictions, while opposing curbs on political spending.
Some Republicans even credit the Supreme Court vacancy as one reason Trump won the November election.
Vice President Mike Pence presided over the vote, but was not needed to break a tie.
It was a direct attack on the traditions of the Senate and yet another extreme escalation in Democrats' decades-long drive to transform judicial confirmations from constructive debates over qualifications into raw ideological struggles.
With Republicans now in control of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the White House, it appears history may not be kind to Reid.