(RNN) - The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Friday after a rule change in the legislative body on Thursday made it impossible for Democrats to filibuster the nomination.
Gorsuch will be the 113th judge to sit on the nation's highest court. His swearing in ceremony is scheduled for next week. Gorsuch spent Friday in Colorado with his family.
At 49 years old, Gorsuch will be the youngest member of the court. His textualist and originalist judicial philosophies are expected to return a conservative, 5-4 majority to the court, which has operated with only eight members since the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican senators enacted the so-called “nuclear option” on Thursday to sidestep a Democratic filibuster that was fueled by outrage over the GOP's refusal to meet with former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, before President Donald Trump won the election.
The rule change lowered the vote requirement for ending debate on Supreme Court picks from 60 to 51, a majority of the 100-seat Senate. Republicans control the Senate, 52-48, and the rule change was approved by that margin.
The rule change was enacted after Republicans, who needed 60 votes to advance the nomination, could not bring in enough Democratic support to do so. Earlier, three Democrats voted with the 52 Republicans to advance Gorsuch's nomination for a vote.
All Senate-approved presidential appointments will follow this rule in the future.
A similar rule change was enacted by Democrats during former President Barack Obama’s second term. It allowed most presidential nominees, including federal court judges, to pass on a simple majority, but it excluded Supreme Court picks.
Denver native Neil Gorsuch has served on the federal appeals court’s 10th Judicial Circuit in Denver since the fall of 2006. President George W. Bush nominated him for the post.
The U.S. Senate approved him for the federal bench on a voice vote. The American Bar Association rated him well-qualified for the position he assumed at age 38.
Gorsuch clerked for two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, and also served a year as deputy associate attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice. He is a graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University, where he earned a doctorate in legal philosophy.
He has a decade of experience in private practice with a law firm in the nation’s capital, where he was an associate and later partner. Gorsuch's mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was the first female head of the EPA under President Ronald Reagan.
He earned his BA from Columbia University in 1988, and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1991.
Most conservative legal groups reacted favorably to the news that Gorsuch was one the three finalists for the open slot left in the wake of Scalia’s sudden death.
Scalia died unexpectedly on Feb. 13, 2016, while on vacation at a hunting resort in Shafter, TX. He had been appointed to the court in 1986 after the resignation of Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Scalia was a strict adherent to the philosophy of originalism, the belief that the Constitution should be interpreted in terms of what the authors meant at the time of ratification. Scalia believed that the Constitution was intended not to facilitate change but to make change more difficult.
He was the anchor of the Court’s conservatives, and became a hero for conservative thinkers and organizations.
In March 2016, a little more than a month after Scalia died, Obama nominated Garland, 63, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He served as an appellate judge for almost two decades and was well-regarded in legal circles. He was considered a moderate based on his rulings over many years.
The Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, steadfastly refused to act on Obama’s nominee, reasoning that the next president should nominate the next justice.
Some conservative groups balked at the risky move, since at the time Hillary Clinton was expected to defeat Trump in the election. Clinton would likely appoint a more liberal judge than Garland, they reasoned.
The gamble paid off as Trump won the White House.
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