A divided Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch on Friday to fill a long-vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Three moderate Democrats joined the Senate’s Republicans in the divisive 54-45 vote. The Democrats who crossed party lines are up for re-election in states that President Donald Trump won in November.
This ends a brutal political battle between the parties to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia who died in February 2016.
Former President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, but the Senate’s Republican majority refused to hold confirmation hearings, hoping that a Republican would win the White House and pick a conservative nominee.
The GOP succeeded only after they utilized the so-called “nuclear option” to end a Democratic filibuster against Gorsuch. That move ended a longstanding Senate rule that required 60 votes instead of a simple majority. The rule was instituted to encourage bipartisan consensus on important issues.
Gorsuch, 49, is expected to be a reliable conservative and could possible serve on the high court for decades.
Many liberals opposed Gorsuch’s nomination, in part, because he usually sides with corporations in disputes with workers. He also opposed the ObamaCare contraception requirement and leans toward reducing the regulatory authority of federal agencies, among other positions progressives find troubling.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund released a comprehensive report on March 16 that explained its opposition to Gorsuch.
LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill gave this explanation in a statement:
“Judge Gorsuch’s ten-year record of judicial decision-making offers no clear demonstration that he understands the importance of courts in vindicating the rights of those most dependent on the promise of equal justice under law. To the contrary, his record reflects a propensity toward minimizing equality protections across various areas. For these reasons, LDF must oppose the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.”
Gorsuch is expected to take his seat on the high court on April 17 and begin hearing his first arguments.