Following a debate in which both Democrats and Republicans seemed to repeat arguments they had made for the past month, the Senate confirmed Gorsuch, 54-45, with Republican Rob Portman of Ohio supporting him and Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio voting against him.
The Supreme Court nominee didn't offer any hints about how he would rule on several hot-button issues.
Trump praises Gorsuch
In a statement issued after the Senate vote, Trump said Gorsuch’s “judicial temperament, exceptional intellect, unparalleled integrity, and record of independence makes him the perfect choice to serve on the nation’s highest court.”
But though the final hours of debate were anticlimactic, the Gorsuch battle may have left lasting scars on the U.S. Senate. After Democrats tried to block his nomination with a filibuster, Senate Republicans approved a rule change to prohibit filibusters on Supreme Court nominees.
In 2013, Senate Democrats changed Senate rules to prohibit filibusters for nominees to the federal appeals bench and the administration. By doing so, the Senate has ended efforts by a minority of just 41 senators to block nominees to the nation’s courts and the president’s cabinet.
What happens with the next court opening?
The fury and intensity of the Democratic effort to block Gorsuch perplexed some analysts. They pointed out that if Trump gets a chance to replace Kennedy or one of the court liberals, that move would dramatically nudge the court to right while Gorsuch simply returns the court to the status quo which existed when Scalia was alive.
Democrats clearly were incensed because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to hold a hearing or a vote last year on President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Scalia – federal appeals Judge Merrick Garland.
“The Democrats knew whatever they did, Gorsuch was going to get on the court,” Bloch said. “And the price the Democrats paid for it was to lose the filibuster.”
“I think that was too big of a price and mistake,” she said. “I guess they were feeling a lot of pressure from the left, but they went through a futile and costly exercise.”
For Democrats, Gorsuch was a preview of coming attractions. Because Ginsburg, 84, Kennedy, 80, and Breyer, 78, are the court’s oldest members, Trump could have an opportunity to name at least one more justice during his term in office.
Those three justices along with Kagan and Sotomayor combined in 2016 struck down a Texas law which required a doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that abortion clinics have hospital-like surgical standards.
In 1992, Kennedy joined then-Justices David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor in an unusual three-justice opinion which upheld a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion, with the three justices concluding government cannot place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.
Last year, Kennedy wrote the majority opinion upholding an affirmative action plan developed by the University of Texas which allows school officials to consider an applicant’s race as one of many reasons for admitting students to its programs.
And in 2015, Kennedy wrote the opinion striking down a federal law which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
But even though Kennedy has swerved left on social issues, he joined the conservatives in a 2008 opinion, District of Columbia v. Heller, which found that Americans have an individual right to possess a gun for lawful reasons.
And in 2010, he wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, writing “as additional rules are created for regulating political speech, any speech arguably within their reach is chilled.”