US Senate goes 'nuclear,' ends Democrats' blockade of Trump court pick

Senate Democrats, incensed the majority GOP a year ago declined to approve outgoing President Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, unleashed their anger on President Trump's pick, the highly lauded 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Neil Gorsuch.

"It was an honor to vote in favor of moving Judge Gorsuch's nomination forward today", he said in a statement, "and I look forward to voting on his final confirmation tomorrow".

The Senate change will apply to all future Supreme Court candidates as well, thus affecting how many votes a nominee needs to advance to a final confirmation vote.

"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.

Most of Gorsuch's introduction to the Supreme Court's work, though, will consist of possibly important but invariably dry-sounding disputes, such as an argument set for the afternoon of April 17 involving the California Public Employees' Retirement System and class-action lawsuits. Republican Senator Johnny Isakson missed the vote. With the temporary assistance of other justices' clerks, he's likely to participate in the court's private conference next Thursday, when justices will decide which cases they want to hear.

Senate Democrats have blocked President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. But "going nuclear" to approve a Supreme Court nominee's lifetime appointment is unprecedented; even Democrats vowed to keep the filibuster in place for high court nominations when they rewrote the rules for lower-level appointments. "In fact, I am confident we will".

With Gorsuch headed to the high court, attention quickly will turn to the possibility of more vacancies during Trump's time in the White House. "Neil Gorsuch has a deep understanding of Western issues and future generations of Coloradans will benefit from his service to our country..."

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said of McConnell's tactic: "No. 1, it's courageous".

"Today's confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law and for the American people". He told reporters that he views his refusal to fill Scalia's seat, which was initially questioned by some fellow Republicans, as "the most consequential decision I've ever been involved in". Many Republicans bemoaned reaching that point, too, but they blamed Democrats for pushing them to it.

Gorsuch will be taking his seat on the Supreme Court later this month.

"We know he'll be independent", Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Friday.

During Senate debate on Wednesday, various Republicans called the conservative Colorado-based federal appeals court judge "incredibly qualified", an "intellectual heavyweight" and "always true to the law".

"They go on the Supreme Court and then, God forbid, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies, or (Anthony) Kennedy retires or (Stephen) Breyer has a stroke or is no longer able to serve". The judicial filibuster survived then only because a bipartisan group of 14 senators struck a deal in 2005 that allowed for some nominees to be approved but preserved the minority's right to demand 60 votes for appointees they particularly disliked. Their stance has pleased their most progressive voters, who have preached resistance to Mr. Trump at every opportunity.

Earl Warren, the most liberal chief justice in recent history, was appointed by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.

Democrats have been under pressure from the left to block Gorsuch, despite the looming threat of the rules change.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and Judiciary Committee chair who played a key role in the fight, cast blame on Senate Democrats, emphasizing in a floor speech Thursday that they were engaging in the "first partisan filibuster in USA history".

  • Leroy Wright