Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice by the Senate on Friday, with President Donald Trump’s high-court pick approved largely along party lines after a controversial rules change a day earlier.
Senators voted 54 to 45 to confirm Gorsuch, who Trump nominated in January to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined Republicans in voting for Gorsuch.
Gorsuch’s confirmation was all-but assured after Republicans changed Senate rules on Thursday and lowered the threshold for a procedural vote on Supreme Court nominees to a simple majority from 60. The move, known as the “nuclear option,” outraged Democrats who said it would inflame partisan divisions.
Read: Senate Republicans vote to use ‘nuclear option’ to confirm Gorsuch.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday an attempt by Democrats to block Gorsuch would be the “first and last partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nomination.” Speaking on the Senate floor, the Kentucky Republican reminded Democrats they had used the nuclear option in 2013. Democrats were in the majority at the time and lowered the vote threshold on nominees excluding Supreme Court picks.
Trump endorsed McConnell’s use of the nuclear option to confirm Gorsuch, a 49-year-old judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Trump is hosting President Xi Jinping of China at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Friday, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters a swearing-in ceremony for Gorsuch will be held next week.
Gorsuch’s confirmation tips the court’s balance back in conservatives’ favor. It is now split four-four between conservatives and liberals.
Trump may get another opportunity to nominate a justice during his presidency, and could replace 84-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg or 78-year-old Stephen Breyer — both liberals — with conservatives.