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Senate confirms Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice

Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed as a U.S.

Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court justice on a near party line vote on Friday, April 7, 2017. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court Friday with a largely party-line vote, restoring the conservative majority to the high court and handing President Donald Trump a significant victory.

Gorsuch, 49, a 10-year veteran member of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, will join his eight new colleagues on the high court midterm after Republicans and three Democrats easily approved his appointment following a contentious rules change Thursday.

The final tally was 54-45 to finally fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, after a more than yearlong, bitter partisan dispute over Republicans refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) did not vote, but three Democrats facing re-election in 2018 in states Trump won voted for Gorsuch.

Trump hailed the vote as a “historic confirmation” and praised Gorsuch for “his judicial temperament, exceptional intellect, unparalleled integrity and record of independence.”

On Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Gorsuch in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. Later that morning, Justice Anthony Kennedy will administer the oath of office to him at a public ceremony at the White House.

The new justice will be thrust into the court’s packed schedule. A key case that will come up for a hearing April 19 is Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, in which a Missouri church claims the state abridged its free speech and religious freedom with its ban on spending public money on religious institutions.

Gorsuch also could be faced with a review of last-minute pleas for a reprieve by up to eight men whom the state of Arkansas has said it intends to execute over 10 days beginning April 17, and six cases argued last year but still unresolved.

Gorsuch’s confirmation and service on the Supreme Court will make history. He will be the first to serve alongside a justice (Kennedy) whom he served as a clerk.

The process that led to his elevation to the high court broke several precedents:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) kept Scalia’s seat open for more than a year by ignoring Obama’s nominee, Appellate Judge Merrick Garland.

That was one reason Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) led the only partisan filibuster against a Supreme Court nominee. McConnell responded by changing Senate rules to defang filibusters, lowering votes needed to end the block from 60 to a simple majority.

“As I look back on my career, I think the most consequential decision I’ve ever been involved in was the decision to let the president being elected last year pick the Supreme Court nominee,” said McConnell, adding he was pleased Trump won and Gorsuch was confirmed.

Schumer said on Thursday that McConnell had created a “post-nuclear world” that would breed “more conflict and bad blood between the parties,” and added, “The cooling saucer of the Senate will get considerably hotter.”

NEIL M. GORSUCH

Age: 49

Residence: Boulder, Colorado

Education: Columbia University, Harvard Law School, University College, Oxford

Experience: Judge in the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Denver since 2006. Previously, he clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David B. Sentelle from 1991 to 1992, for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy from 1993 to 1994, was in private practice from 1995 to 2005 and was a deputy associate attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice from 2005 to 2006.

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