Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court, AR Lawmakers

Faith Castro
April 20, 2017

The Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Judge Gorsuch on April 7 after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ditched the parliamentary rules of requiring a 60-vote majority to bring confirmations of Supreme Court judges to the floor for a vote.

But it's happened a couple of times, though well before the age of careful vetting of nominees and Senate hearings.

Even as Graham and other senior Republicans lamented the voting change, McConnell and some allies argued that all they were doing was returning to a time, not long ago, when filibusters of judicial nominees were unusual, and it was virtually unheard-of to try to block a Supreme Court nominee in that fashion.

"The practical result of where we are now is we're back to where we were as late as 2000", said McConnell, pointing out that even Clarence Thomas got onto the court without a filibuster, despite highly contentious confirmation hearings regarding sexual harassment claims from Anita Hill.

Another case that the Supreme Court has not taken up yet is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the state's civil rights commission ruled that a Lakewood, Colo. cake artist could not decline to serve a same-sex wedding one the grounds of his religious beliefs. Alexander Hamilton also made a pitch to Harrison, who initially relented and set out from Maryland for NY, then the nation's capital.

While Scalia was enormously well-liked and admired by fellow justices, his harsh written rhetoric sometimes diminished his influence internally on the court.

Later Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy will ask his former law clerk and new colleague to take the second oath in a public ceremony at the White House.

With his final vote set for Friday, Gorsuch counts 55 supporters: the 52 Republicans, along with three moderate Democrats from states that Trump won - Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

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The backdrop to Thursday's action was last year's refusal by Republicans to consider President Obama's nominee to the court, Judge Merrick Garland.

A bipartisan group of 61 senators sent a letter to Senate leaders Friday urging them to maintain the 60-vote threshold for filibusters involving legislation, which they said is needed to ensure bipartisanship remains a component of passing bills through the chamber.

Republicans sought to blame Democrats for the shift in the Senate's rules, noting that it was the Democrats who first abandoned the filibuster rule with a majority vote maneuver in 2013. Then McConnell raised a point of order, suggesting that Supreme Court nominees should not be subjected to a 60-vote threshold but instead a simple majority in the 100-member Senate. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the constitutional oath in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court.

"We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court", Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY declared on the Senate floor Thursday. The court's current term is scheduled to end in June. The court did not give a time for the White House event. And it was cause for celebration for conservatives, who have often seemed willing to forgive various Trump failings next to the chance to win this lifetime appointment to the most important court on the land.

On April 19, the court will hear a religious rights case in which a church contends Missouri violated the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom by denying it funds for a playground project due to a state ban on aid to religious organizations.

Some Republicans even credit the Supreme Court vacancy as one reason Trump won the November election. Nominated by then-President George W. Bush, he was unanimously confirmed for the circuit court in 2006 and that same year, he received a "unanimously well qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R) voted to confirm Gorsuch, while Democratic Sen.

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