Neil Gorsuch joined Supreme Court history Monday as he was sworn to replace the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia.
Gorsuch path to this wasn’t smooth, however, involving the Senate “going nuclear” changing the number of votes required to approve a Supreme Court nominee from 60 votes, to 51. The senate ultimately confirmed President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch by a vote of 54-45. (Johnny Isakson (R-GA) didn’t vote on the matter as he was absent from the chamber due to back surgery.)
Mitch McConnell, the senate majority leader who led the decision to change the threshold for supreme court nominations, blamed having to change the rules on Democrats.
“We restored to this body a tradition Democrats first upset in 2003 by using a tool Democrats first employed in 2013,” McConnell said in a statement, referring to the Democrats changing the confirmation threshold required for lower court judicial nominees.
As for Gorsuch, McConnell offered his praise.
All but three Democrats voted “no” on confirming Gorsuch. The three Democrats who did vote in favor of Gorsuch’s confirmation were: Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).
Sen. Heitkamp, up for reelection in a state that President Trump won, criticized the Republicans for refusing to give a hearing or floor vote to Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court last year. However, she argued that it would be purely politics to do the same with the new president’s nominee. This partisan nature is something she condemned following the decision to go nuclear.
“Hyperpartisanship has reached a new level as the Senate voted on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “This vote change may seem like it’s just nuanced procedure and it doesn’t matter – but it really matters. Solely requiring a majority vote politicizes the Supreme Court – our highest court in the land – which is supposed to be nonpartisan.”
Sen. Manchin III also voted in favor of Gorsuch’s confirmation.
“After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice, I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court,” Manchin said in a statement. “Senators have a constitutional obligation to advise and consent on a nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy and, simply put, we have a responsibility to do our jobs as elected officials.”
Donnelly was the final Democrat to vote in favor of Gorsuch’s nomination. Donnelly said that while he was “deeply disappointed” in Republican’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland last year, it did not play a role in his decision.
“After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record, and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers,” Donnelly said in a statement.
Justice Gorsuch will now head off to the Supreme Court, whereas the most junior justice he will be assigned the traditional role of serving on the cafeteria committee.