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Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

Variety logo Variety 4/7/2017 Ted Johnson
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Neil Gorsuch won confirmation as an associate justice to the Supreme Court, one day after Senate Republicans abandoned longtime tradition to overcome a Democratic filibuster.

The vote was 54-45, with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) joining Republicans in supporting Gorsuch.

He will be sworn in on Monday.

Gorsuch’s confirmation was a given after the Senate on Thursday voted along party lines to require a simple majority to end debate on his nomination. That killed Senate tradition of requiring 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and marked the end of the procedural tactic for judicial nominees.

Gorsuch, 49, was nominated by President Donald Trump in February, and his confirmation marks one of his first major achievements as president.

Democrats opposed his nomination not only because of a history of rightward decisions, but as a response to Republican refusal to even give a hearing to President Barack Obama’s choice for the court, Merrick Garland, when the vacancy opened more than a year ago.

That nomination lapsed at the end of the Obama presidency, in what many Democrats see as a “stolen” seat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the nomination shouldn’t proceed until after the election, even though past judicial choices have proceeded during an election year. As Democrats filibustered Gorsuch’s nomination, McConnell followed through on threats to invoke what was called the “nuclear option” — voting the change Senate rules to allow Trump’s pick to proceed by simple majority.

Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge on the 10th Circuit, won praise from conservatives as a natural successor to Antonin Scalia. He essentially restores the ideological breakdown of the court before Scalia’s death, as the justices have generally been split 4-4 for more than a year.

Gorsuch aligns with Scalia in many aspects of judicial philosophy, but his decisions have suggested that he is skeptical of the idea of judicial deference to administrative agencies.

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