WASHINGTON — Judge Neil Gorsuch became Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch today as three Democrats crossed party lines to confirm the 10th Circuit appellate jurist from Colorado.
Senate Republicans fulfilled their goal of getting Gorsuch on the high court before Congress left for the Easter break, despite Democrats’ attempted filibuster and protests that the nomination should be delayed for negotiations on a consensus nominee.
Vice President Pence presided over the Senate on the final vote, which was 54-45. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) was absent for the vote. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who also voted to move the nomination forward on the “nuclear option” cloture vote Thursday, voted to confirm.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (D-Iowa), who shepherded Gorsuch through the committee hurdle, said on the Senate floor this morning that the justice’s “deep understanding of the separation of powers enlivens his opinions.”
“By faithfully enforcing the boundaries among branches of the government and the power of the federal government in our lives, this justice will ensure that the law protects our liberties,” Grassley said. “And here’s the other thing that’s important about a judge who respects the separation of powers: We know he’ll be independent. He told us that he’s his own man, that no man speaks for him. He’s not beholden to the president who appointed him.”
“And his testimony shows that he’s not beholden to us, either. He wouldn’t compromise his independence to win confirmation votes. He passed the test. This is a man of integrity.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told fellow senators before the vote that “we are charging Judge Gorsuch to be the independent and fair-minded justice that America badly needs — if he is, instead, a justice for the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, that will spell trouble for America.”
After Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) deployed the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote cloture threshold on Supreme Court nominees, Schumer encouraged talks between the two parties to discourage any more nuclear blasts against filibusters.
“As I’ve said repeatedly: Let us go no further down this road. I hope the Republican leader and I can, in the coming months, find a way to build a firewall around the legislative filibuster, which is the most important distinction between the Senate and the House,” Schumer said. “Without the 60-vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes a majoritarian institution like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change. No senator would like to see that happen, so let’s find a way to further protect the 60-vote rule for legislation.”
McConnell said he hoped his “Democratic friends will take this moment to reflect and, perhaps, consider a turning point in their outlook going forward.”
“The Senate has a number of important issues to consider in the coming months. Each member, if he or she chooses, can play a critical part in that process,” he said.
“I urge colleagues to consider the role they can play and I ask them to consider what we’ve been able to achieve in years’ past by working together, including the numerous bipartisan accomplishments of the last Congress. Because, as we all know, the Senate does more than confirm Supreme Court nominees. Although, I’m sure looking forward to confirming this one.”