The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday.
The Republican majority was joined in the 54-45 vote by a few Democrats in confirming the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge to the high court. Gorsuch's success comes after the Senate killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations on Thursday, effectively paving the way for Gorsuch to join the high court.
After the Democratic minority mounted a successful partisan filibuster of Gorsuch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deployed the "nuclear option" to lower the vote threshold necessary to confirm Gorsuch from 60 to 51 votes. Gorsuch cleared that threshold Friday morning. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley told reporters after the vote that the change in rules necessary to confirm Gorsuch should not put an asterisk next to his name.
"The Supreme Court to me is a sacred institution," said Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who supported Gorsuch, on Friday. "We've had great Democratic justices. We've had great Republican justices. ... Neil Gorsuch, I have every confidence, will be one of the all-time great justices for that court."
Gorsuch, a Colorado native, is expected to be seated on the Supreme Court before oral arguments resume later this month. The newest justice is a self-identified originalist, a judicial philosophy popularized by the late Justice Antonin Scalia whose seat Gorsuch will fill. His addition to the high court is expected to restore the status quo that existed with Scalia on the bench in many cases with few anticipated deviations.
Conservative legal scholars cheering Gorsuch's nomination have long cited his writing and record on the separation of powers and religious liberty issues as evidence that he may help move the court in their direction. As a former Supreme Court clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, conservatives also have expressed optimism that he can build new coalitions with Kennedy to push the high court's frequent swing vote to the right.
Friday's victory for Gorsuch gives a win to President Trump and the outside conservative groups who have worked for months to ensure Gorsuch's confirmation. The judge's confirmation team included the White House counsel's office, McConnell's office, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican National Committee and outside conservative groups such as the Judicial Crisis Network and America Rising. Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gorsuch's former law clerks also assisted.
"It's been a tremendous honor to get to know Justice Gorsuch and to be part of his talented confirmation team," Ayotte said Friday. "He is a man of great integrity and intellect, and he will be an independent judge who is commited to equal justice under the law. His confirmation today is important for the court and our country."
Democrats' objection to Gorsuch largely focused on Republicans' blockade of Judge Merrick Garland's nomination by former President Barack Obama to fill the same seat. The Senate Democrats who took issue with Gorsuch himself focused on his performance during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, particularly his reluctance to answer questions involving cases and controversies that could come before him on the high court.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Whip Dick Durbin hammered Gorsuch repeatedly as a friend of the wealthy and foe of the "little guy," and cited the "frozen trucker" case as an example where they believe harm came as a result of Gorsuch's rulings. Durbin spoke ahead of Friday's vote and criticized Gorsuch as a nominee handpicked by conservative activists.
"Where did the name Neil Gorsuch come from?" Durbin said. "He was the choice of the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. If you know these two groups, you know they're Republican advocacy groups."
The Judicial Crisis Network launched a $10 million campaign for Gorsuch with partners such as America Rising and Tea Party Patriots to mobilize conservative grass-roots supporters and pressure Senate Democrats to confirm Gorsuch.
"Congratulations to Judge Gorsuch on his confirmation, and to President Trump and [Senate Majority] Leader McConnell on this extraordinary achievement," said Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel and policy director "Because of their leadership, and because of Judge Gorsuch's commitment to judicial independence and the rule of law, Justice Scalia's legacy will continue on the Supreme Court."
Leonard Leo, an adviser to Trump for the Supreme Court nominaton, said that Gorsuch brings the nation "one step closer to seeing the preservation of [Scalia's] legacy on the court.""Throughout his career, Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated his commitment to judicial independence and to deciding cases according to the law instead of political preferences. I applaud President Trump for choosing such an outstanding nominee, and Leader McConnell and his colleagues for defeating an unprecedented partisan filibuster."
Gorsuch, whose Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearings lasted more than 20 hours, has been largely mum on the political process leading to his confirmation. Gorsuch said during the hearings there was "a great deal about the process I regret," including putting his family through it. During his remarks on the night of his nomination Gorsuch, pledged to "do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country."
His swearing-in ceremony is expected to be held Monday.