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Gorsuch Confirmed to SCOTUS

Megan Geller

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On April 7, 2017, the Senate confirmed 49 year-old Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court by a vote of 54-45. Three Democrats crossed party lines to vote for Gorsuch: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. All three Senators come from red states that supported President Trump in the November election. Judge Gorsuch fills the critical ninth seat on the Supreme court previously held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away in February 2016. Gorsuch’s confirmation restores the composition that existed on the bench before Scalia’s death with five conservatives (including Scalia) and four liberals.

Gorsuch’s confirmation was not considered a slam-dunk, since Democrats waged a filibuster against Gorsuch. Democrats complained that Gorsuch’s questioning during his confirmation hearings yielded nothing of substance and only canned answers. However, others believe that his prior rulings would stand on their own merits and that he would be reliable conservative. The Republicans, fearful that Gorsuch would not receive the 60 votes needed for confirmation, executed the so-called “nuclear option”. This option allows the confirmation threshold to be lowered to 51 votes for confirmation. 51 votes makes this a simple majority vote. Democrats objected to this action, but they had previously used the same tactic in 2013 under the direction of now retired Senate majority leader Harry Reid; therefore, their protest fell on deaf ears.

Gorsuch himself is no stranger to the court having spent two years as law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy and now deceased Justice Byron White from 1993 to 1994. Before his nomination, Judge Gorsuch was a federal judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from 2006-2017.

With four justices over the age of 70 and retirement rumors floating around Washington, Trump may have future opportunities for Justice appointments before his term expires.

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