Senate confirms Neil Gorsuch to US Supreme Court

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The Senate voted to place Gorsuch on the nation's highest court, a position that has been vacant since the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed Friday after Republicans tore up the Senate's voting rules over furious Democratic objections.

The Senate voted to place Gorsuch on the nation's highest court, a position that has been vacant since the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

Democrats denounced the GOP's use of what both sides dubbed the "nuclear option" to put Gorsuch on the court, calling it an epic power grab that would further corrode politics in Congress, the courts and the United States. Many Republicans bemoaned reaching that point, too, but they blamed Democrats for pushing them to it.

"We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court," Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York declared on the Senate floor Thursday.

"This is going to be a chapter, a monumental event in the history of the Senate, not for the better but for the worse," warned Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior Republican.

Gorsuch is expected to be sworn in soon to hear the final cases of the term. He was nominated by Trump shortly after the January inauguration.

The Senate change, affecting how many votes a nominee needs for confirmation, will apply to all future Supreme Court candidates, likely ensuring more ideological justices chosen with no need for consultation with the minority party.

Trump himself predicted to reporters aboard Air Force One that "there could be as many as four" Supreme Court vacancies for him to fill during his administration.

"In fact, under a certain scenario, there could even be more than that," Trump said. There is no way to know how many there will be, if any, but several justices are quite elderly.

Even as they united in indignation, lawmakers of both parties, pulled by fierce political forces from left and right, were unwilling to stop the confirmation rules change.

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