Senate Republicans invoke 'nuclear option' to clear way for Gorsuch confirmation

The confirmation is a major victory for President Trump, who nominated Gorsuch for the position, and for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose unwavering refusal to move on former President Obama's nominee kept the seat open. He replaces the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who's sudden death in February 2016 sparked a year-long partisan fight over the ideological balance of the court.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the "nuclear option" to break the Democrats' filibuster with a simple majority vote.

Gorsuch's confirmation was all-but-assured on Thursday, when Republicans cleared the way for him by overcoming a historic Democratic blockade and changing the rules of the Senate.

Republicans, determined to restore the conservative tilt of the Supreme Court since Scalia's unexpected death, worked in lockstep on Thursday to see that Gorsuch would ultimately be confirmed.

Even before he's sworn in, Gorsuch's nomination has altered the course of judicial history, as Senate Republicans changed the rules to get him across the finish line.

With the recent failure of Republican healthcare legislation in Congress and with federal courts blocking the president's ban on people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, securing Gorsuch's confirmation took on even greater importance for Trump, who took office in January. Gorsuch could be expected to serve for decades, while Trump could make further appointments to the high court to make it even more solidly conservative because three of the eight justices are 78 or older. McConnell refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama's nominee.

During his time on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch joined an opinion siding with closely held corporations who believed that the so-called contraceptive mandate of Obamacare violated their religious beliefs. By late spring or early summer, the court might be asked to consider President Donald Trump's proposed ban on visitors from six majority Muslim countries.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a senior Republican, warned of the implications of lowering the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees, thereby eliminating any role for the minority party in ratifying the selection.

"As a deep believer in the rule of law, Judge Gorsuch will serve the American people with distinction as he continues to faithfully and vigorously defend our Constitution", Trump said in a statement. Trump himself predicted to reporters aboard Air Force One that "there could be as many as four" Supreme Court vacancies for him to fill during his administration.

The tensions spilled out into public this week when Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and a proponent of take-no-prisoners politics, lost his seat on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, a group of high-ranking officials who meet to discuss pressing national security needs.

"There's a reason why it's called the nuclear option", Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor before the series of votes began.

WASHINGTON: The Republican-led Senate on Friday gave Donald Trump the biggest triumph of his young presidency, confirming his Supreme Court nominee over stout Democratic opposition and restoring a conservative majority on the highest United States judicial body.

"Serving on the U.S. Supreme Court requires more than education and experience, and I am extremely concerned that Judge Gorsuch's judicial approach is out of step with mainstream American values", he continued. Garland was considered a moderate choice by the liberal president, but leaders of the Republican-held Senate said Obama should not be allowed to put someone on the court during his past year in office.

Gorsuch will be sworn in Monday with a private ceremony at the court to be followed by a public oath-taking at the White House, the court said in a statement.

"In fact, under a certain scenario, there could even be more than that", Trump said.

  • Leroy Wright