8 men confirmed by Senate didn't fill Supreme Court seats

But Democrats put up a fight in the road to confirmation, citing Senate Republicans' unwillingness to even hold a hearing for President Obama's choice for the seat - U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland - when it was first made open by the death of the U.S. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia a year ago. The Republicans need 60 votes to stop a filibuster, but they only need 51 votes to eliminate the right to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. He was back in his home state recovering from a second back surgery in the past month.

The vote was only possible after Republicans voted Thursday to change the rule that said filibusters could only be ended by a vote of 60 senators in favor of allowing filibusters to be ended on a simple majority vote - scrapping a tradition that helped promote cooperation and bipartisanship.

On April 7, Gorsuch was confirmed by a vote of 54 to 45.

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 USA, securing Gorsuch's confirmation took on even greater importance for Trump, who took office in January.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday that Judge Neil Gorsuch has "sterling credentials, an excellent record and an ideal judicial temperament".

I am so grateful to the almost 10,000 NOM members who grabbed an oar and actively worked with us to support Justice Gorsuch's confirmation. The yearlong vacancy made the direction of Supreme Court one of the major issues of the 2016 election. Many of Trump's policies have also been stymied, from the court-ordered freezes of his travel ban to the collapse of his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The maneuvering played out with much hand-wringing from all sides about the future of the Senate, as well as unusually bitter accusations and counter-accusations as each side blamed the other.

Democrats opposed Gorsuch in part because Senate Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, last year.

Gorsuch's confirmation awarded a symbolic victory to Trump, who has promised to his supporters early on that he would appoint a conservative justice to the Supreme Court.

Even as senior Republicans lamented the voting change, McConnell and some allies argued that all they were doing was returning to a time, not long ago, when filibusters of judicial nominees were unusual, and it was virtually unheard-of to try to block a Supreme Court nominee in that fashion. The change has prompted fears that United States presidents could propose more ideologically extreme judges in future given the need for just a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

"This vote, which is yet another example of the Republican willingness to undermine critical democratic institutions in support of Donald Trump's radical agenda, will mean new threats to workers' rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and the rights of all Americans", the group's CEO, Stosh Cotler, said in a statement.

Being among the youngest Supreme Court nominees, Gorsuch has served as an appeals judge for the 10th Circuit in the USA state of Colorado since 2006.

"What a judge does as a Supreme Court justice and what he does as a circuit court judge are not necessarily the same thing", Loewy said. On Thursday, Republican Senators invoked the "nuclear option" to break a Democratic filibuster, a move that could echo for years.

  • Larry Hoffman