Washington – The Senate on Friday gave President Donald Trump his first big victory with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Friday’s 54-45 vote to confirm Gorsuch, who will be the 113th justice to serve on the high court, was anti-climatic. Senate Republican leaders had paved the way for the confirmation Thursday by changing Senate rules to end a Democratic filibuster aimed at stopping the confirmation of the conservative judge, who sat on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The filibuster required Gorsuch to win at least 60 votes for confirmation, but the rules change allowed him to be confirmed by a simple minority.
The bruising confirmation process has changed the nature of the Senate, adding to he partisan rancor.
“The only way he could be confirmed was in fact to wreck the rules,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy both opposed the confirmation , saying they doubted Gorsuch’s independence from the White House and were concerned about his “originalist” leanings. Originalism is a way to a way to interpret the U.S. Constitution’s meaning as never changing from the time of its enactment.
Both senators supported the filibuster and were angered by the rules change, dubbed the “nuclear option” because of the harm it would do to relations in the Senate. Democrats were also rankled by the GOP’s refusal last year to act on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the open seat created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Our democracy simply cannot afford a Supreme Court Justice who may bring his own political views into the courtroom. Republican Senators forever lowered the bar for Supreme Court nominees just to get him on the Court, and will bear responsibility for his judgments,” Murphy said.
“While I believe this is a setback for people in Connecticut,” Murphy continued, “I’ll keep doing everything I can to protect their rights and help them as they work hard to build better lives for themselves and their families.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy was as irritated as Murphy: “This is a sad day for American democracy,” he said. “The U.S. Senate has a long history of civility and the good of the people coming before partisan dogma, but today we witnessed the unraveling of that esteemed tradition. The confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court is the culmination of a sordid maneuver by Republican Senators to steal a U.S. Supreme Court nomination from a sitting U.S. President who was a Democrat.”
Despite the heightened partisanship, Connecticut’s Democratic senators said they will continue to work with the GOP on issues where there might be s common ground, including infrastructure and tax reform.
Vice President Mike Pence presided over the final vote Friday, even though his vote as a tie-breaker was not necessary. Three Democrats joined all 52 Senate Republicans in confirming Gorsuch, who, at 49 years old, could serve on the Supreme Court for decades.
The Democrats who supported Gorsuch were Sen. Mike Bennet of Colorado, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Gorsuch will maintain a conservative majority on the high court and is expected to be sworn in before the justices gather April 17 for their last round of oral arguments this month.