The U.S. Senate voted 54-45 Friday to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in a vote decided largely along party lines.
Vice President Mike Pence was present in the Senate chamber to preside over the confirmation vote.
The vote came a day after Republicans used their majority to exercise the “nuclear option,” altering Senate rules to defeat a Democratic procedural blockade of the nominee, known as a filibuster.
While lamenting the need for a rules change, Republicans said they had no choice but to act.
“We need to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate and get past this unprecedented partisan filibuster,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
“We have actually restored the status quo,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, noting that filibusters of Supreme Court nominees were almost unheard of prior to Trump’s selection.
Democrats had a different take on the decision to alter the filibuster.
“When history weighs what happened, the responsibility for changing the rules will fall on the Republicans’ and Leader McConnell’s shoulders,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat. “No one forced them to act. They acted with free will.”
“I am sick with regret,” said Democratic Chris Coons of Delaware. “Where are we headed? If we cannot trust each other, then are there any big problems facing this country which we can address and solve?”
‘You are stuck’
Republicans said Democrats had no one to blame but themselves, launching a filibuster they knew Republicans were determined to overcome.
“You [Democrats] are stuck,” said Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, ahead of the rules change. “You’ve got to press forward, don’t you, even though you know the effort is doomed to fail. You know that he [Gorsuch] will be confirmed, and you know in your heart that he deserves to be confirmed.”
Democrats countered that the filibuster of Gorsuch, after a thorough confirmation hearing, paled in comparison to Republicans’ refusal to even consider former President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
“[Republicans] made history in denying a presidential nominee a hearing and a vote, which had never, never happened before in the history of the United States,” said Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois. “The nuclear option was used by Senator McConnell when he stopped Merrick Garland.”