Update: After weeks of endless rhetoric and party bickering over the controversial usage of the 'nuclear option', Neil Gorsuch has officially been confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States with a largely partisan vote of 54-45.
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Following a series of procedural votes yesterday to invoke the so-called 'nuclear option', the Senate is expected to vote shortly to confirm Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
Given the rule changes implemented yesterday, Republicans require only a simple majority vote to confirm Gorsuch, and with Republicans holding a 52-48 majority in the Senate, today's vote is all but a foregone conclusion. And while it will mostly be a partisan vote, 3 Democrats are also expected to support Gorsuch for a final vote tally of 55-45.
The official roll call can be watched here:
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Here is our summary from yesterday on the Senate's move to invoke the 'nuclear option':
In a historic vote, Senate Republicans on Thursday crushed "a Democratic blockade" - in Reuters' words - of Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, in a fierce partisan brawl, approving a rule change dubbed the "nuclear option" to allow for conservative judge Neil Gorsuch's confirmation by Friday.
The Senate voted 52-48 along party lines to repeal a rule allowing filibusters against Supreme Court nominees,invoking the so-called nuclear option, and clearing the way for Gorsuch confirmation who now needs a simple majority for nomination. Shortly thereafter, the Senate voted 55-45 to end debate on Gorsuch’s nomination, setting up a final vote expected Friday. Thanks to the new rule enacted earlier Thursday, a simple majority was needed.
"This will be the first and last partisan filibuster of the Supreme Court," Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor, accusing Democrats of trying to inflict political damage on Trump and to keep more conservatives from joining the high court.
"In 20 or 30 or 40 years, we will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court, a day when we irrevocably moved further away from the principles our founders intended for these institutions: principles of bipartisanship, moderation and consensus," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.
McConnell initiated the rules change by raising a point of order asserting that simple-majority votes should advance Supreme Court nominees to final confirmation votes. Democrats tried to delay it by offering motions to postpone a vote and to adjourn the chamber, but both fell short as Republicans stayed unified.
Earlier Thursday, McConnell said the rules change would restore the Senate’s tradition of considering a Supreme Court nominee based on credentials instead of ideology. He called the Democratic filibuster of Goruch “a radical move” and something “completely unprecedented in the history of our Senate.” “This threatened filibuster cannot be allowed to succeed or to continue for the sake of the Senate, for the sake of the court and for the sake our country,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Democrats successfully blocked Gorsuch’s nomination from getting 60 votes earlier Thursday morning, prompting Republicans to go “nuclear” and change the rules to allow Gorsuch and future Supreme Court nominees to clear the Senate with only a simple majority. Democrats tried to delay the rules change vote by offering motions to postpone a vote and to adjourn the chamber, but both fell short as Republicans stayed unified.
Democrat senators Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) voted with Republicans to allow President Trumps’s pick to move forward.
Republicans defended the party-line vote on the nuclear option, saying Democrats were to blame for blocking Gorsuch, who they believe is eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued that Democrats should “come to their senses.”
“The truth of the matter is that throughout this process, the minority led by their leader has been desperately searching for a justification for their preplanned filibuster,” he said ahead of Thursday’s votes.
McConnell added that the current stalemate was part of a decades-long Democratic effort to “politicize the courts and the confirmation process.” “The opposition to this particular nominee is more about the man that nominated him and the party he represents than the nominee himself,” he said.
Republicans hinted for weeks that President Trump’s nominee would be confirmed one way or another. McConnell confirmed during a leadership press conference that he had the votes to go “nuclear” if needed.
According to The Hill, Republicans appeared resigned to the tactics, arguing if Democrats won’t support Gorsuch — who received the American Bar Association’s highest rating — they won’t allow any GOP nominee to join the Supreme Court.
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The Republican-backed rule change on Thursday maintains the ability to filibuster legislation. In the past, the nuclear option has been averted when moderates in the two parties compromised to avoid a showdown, but the ferocious partisanship in Washington now made that impossible.
Experts said eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments could make it more likely that presidents, with little incentive to choose centrist justices who could attract support from the other party, will pick ideologically extreme nominees in the future.
Ending the filibuster also would make it easier for future Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed when the president and Senate leadership belong to the same party.
With the 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.
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Senate confirmation of Gorsuch, 49, would restore the nine-seat court's 5-4 conservative majority, enabling Trump to leave an indelible mark on America's highest judicial body and fulfill a top campaign promise by the Republican president. Gorsuch could be expected to serve for decades.
The court's ideological leaning could help determine the outcome of cases involving the death penalty, abortion, gun control, environmental regulations, transgender rights, voting rights, immigration, religious liberty, presidential powers and more.
The nine-seat Supreme Court has had a vacancy since conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016.