Neil M. Gorsuch has been confirmed in a 54-45 vote [materials] by the Senate as the 113th justice of the US Supreme Court. Gorsuch was a judge [official profile] on the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [government website] in Colorado before becoming President Donald Trump’s nominee [JURIST report] to fill the seat left vacant following the death of Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch will be sworn in [press release] at a private ceremony in the Justice’s Conference Room of the Supreme Court at 9 a.m. on Monday. A public Oath Ceremony will take place at the White House later in the day. The vote to confirm Gorsuch was nearly split along party lines. Ultimately, three Democrats voted for Gorsuch: Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp [official websites]. Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson did not vote.
Gorsuch’s confirmation caps a contentious battle between Democrats and Republicans over the Supreme Court vacancy. Following Scalia’s death in February 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated [JURIST report] federal appellate judge Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans refused to consider [JURIST commentary] Garland, insisting that the next president should chose the nominee. Following Trump’s election to the White House and Republican retention of control over the Senate, nomination of a conservative judge appeared likely. Trump fostered intrigue over his nomination by releasing a list of 21 potential nominees [Politico report] before ultimately selecting Gorsuch. Despite a Republican majority in the Senate, Gorsuch’s confirmation was not unchallenged. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” [NYT report] to bypass a filibuster by Democrats, which reduced the number of votes needed to invoke cloture from 60 to 50. The move was necessary because the 52 Republican members of the Senate would not have the votes to defeat the filibuster without Democratic support.