Justice Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia early last year. To bypass a Democrat filibuster, Republicans used what has been coined the “nuclear option” to change the rules back to what they were before 2003 when a super-majority was not required for judicial confirmations. Gorsuch passed with some Democratic support also.
Report from CNN:
The Senate Friday morning confirmed Neil Gorsuch, a 49-year-old federal judge who could help cement a conservative majority on the bench for decades, to the Supreme Court, according to a CNN count of the vote.
The vote was 54-45, mostly along party lines. Only three Democrats: Sens. Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, sided with the GOP majority.
Vice President Mike Pence presided over the vote, but was not needed to break a tie.
The court has been operating with eight justices since the sudden death in February 2016 of Justice Antonin Scalia and a protracted fight over President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
The court will now return to essentially the status quo, which is basically 4 liberal justices, 4 conservative justices, and perhaps the swing vote in the middle with Anthony Kennedy. The next Supreme Court vacancy could be far more meaningful in terms of actually reshaping the court and giving the conservative justices a slim majority should one of the liberal justices step down during Trump’s term.