The Senate confirmed Colorado appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Friday after Senate Republicans ended Democratic efforts to filibuster him.
The Senate voted 54-45 to seat Gorsuch on the high court after a 14-month vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia after his death in February 2016. Gorsuch will break a 4-4 split between the court's liberal- and conservative-leaning justices that has led to several high-profile deadlocks on controversial cases, including decisions that protected forced government union dues and blocked President Barack Obama's immigration plan.
Gorsuch will now be seated on the court in time to hear important cases scheduled for oral arguments in April, including Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, a case that could determine whether religiously affiliated organizations such as schools and hospitals can receive government grants.
Gorsuch was confirmed despite fierce opposition from abortion rights activists, dark money liberal groups, and Democratic senators. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) organized the first filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee ever on Thursday. That filibuster could have delayed Gorsuch's nomination in perpetuity after Schumer received the support of 41 Democratic senators, but Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) changed the rules to break the filibuster and force an up-or-down vote decided by a simple majority, rather than 60 votes.
It was the second time the Senate has invoked the so-called nuclear option in the past four years. Former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) changed the rules in 2013 to help confirm controversial judicial nominees to the federal bench.
Gorsuch previously enjoyed bipartisan support. He was confirmed unanimously to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. President Donald Trump credited his previous Senate confirmation as part of the reason he selected him from a shortlist of 20 conservative jurists organized by the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society.
"Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline, and has earned bipartisan support," Trump said at a January White House press conference announcing the nomination.
Republicans praised the confirmation. Sen. Orrin Hatch (D., Utah), former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a statement that he had "never seen a better nominee than Judge Neil Gorsuch."
"Not only does he possess unquestionably impressive credentials, but he has also demonstrated a deep and abiding understanding of the proper role of a judge under the Constitution," Hatch said. "While I am disappointed that partisan politics interfered with the Senate's consideration of a nominee who deserved the support of all 100 senators, I am extraordinarily pleased that Judge Gorsuch will now take a seat on the highest court in the land."
Leonard Leo, Trump's Supreme Court adviser, praised Gorsuch, as well as McConnell for turning the key on the nuclear option to break the filibuster. He said the confirmation will preserve Scalia's "legacy on the Court."
"I applaud President Trump for choosing such an outstanding nominee, and Leader McConnell and his colleagues for defeating an unprecedented partisan filibuster," Leo said in a statement. "A year ago we lost Justice Scalia, a giant, and today we are one step closer to seeing the preservation of his legacy on the Court."
Trump is scheduled to swear in Gorsuch on Monday.