- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2017

The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court Friday morning, thrilling conservatives and angering liberals who expect him to be in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he will take.

The 54-45 vote was also a victory for President Trump, who last year had campaigned on his ability to pick good justices conservatives could rally behind.

“This brilliant, honest, humble man is a judge’s judge and we will make a superb justice,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley said.

Only three Democrats backed the judge, as did all 51 Republicans who were in the chamber voting. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, who is recovering from surgery, missed the vote.

Friday’s vote came a day after Democrats staged a filibuster to block the judge, offering a long — and occasionally conflicting — litany of complaints.

After the filibuster Republicans used the “nuclear option” to alter the interpretation of Senate rules, lowering the level of votes needed to end a filibuster of high court nominees. The new change brings Supreme Court nominees in line with all other nominees, after Democrats used the nuclear option in 2013 to change the rules for those other picks.

Mr. Grassley told reporters he thinks the next Supreme Court confirmation will be just as partisan if another seat were to open up during Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Scalia’s seat has sat empty for more than a year, and became a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat but Republicans, who control the Senate, refused to give him a hearing, much less a floor vote, arguing Mr. Obama was a lame duck and voters should have a say in the pick through the election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who orchestrated the blockade, called it “the most consequential decision I’ve ever been involved in.”

The GOP’s delay gambit paid off with the stunning election of Mr. Trump, who after being sworn in quickly made good on his promise to pick a nominee from a list he released during the campaign.

Democrats say the GOP has stolen the seat. They’d expected the use the seat to tilt the court to the left, replacing Scalia with a more liberal justice.

The White House announced Judge Gorsuch will be sworn in Monday morning.

Mr. Trump, in a statement, said the confirmation process for Judge Gorsuch was the most transparent process in history, and said he expects the new justice will “faithfully and vigorously defend our Constitution.”

“I would also like to thank Justice Scalia and his wife Maureen for their immeasurable service to this country. Justice Scalia’s legacy of fidelity to our laws and our Constitution will never be forgotten,” said Mr. Trump.

Once he’s sworn in, Judge Gorsuch will be able to take part in not only the cases the court still has yet to hear this term, but can also rule in any cases where the oral argument has occurred but a decision hasn’t been issued.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said the judge will be reviewing petitions and deciding whether to grant appeals to the high court on controversial issues including the Second Amendment and voting rights.

Judge Gorsuch will be the only judge from the west on the high court, as well as the only Episcopalian.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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