Gorsuch confirmed to US Supreme Court

2017-04-07 20:32
An activist wears a StopGorsuch T-shirt during a press conference by Democratic senators against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

An activist wears a StopGorsuch T-shirt during a press conference by Democratic senators against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

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Washington - The US Senate on Friday confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, ending a bruising year-long political battle and presenting President Donald Trump with a welcome victory.

Republicans and a handful of Democrats got the federal judge from Colorado across the finish line with a 54-45 vote, one day after opposition Democrats launched a historic blockade of the nominee.

Senate Republican leaders countered with the so-called "nuclear option," a manoeuvre that changed the chamber's rules so that moving Gorsuch - and all subsequent Supreme Court nominees - ahead for a final vote requires a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the traditional 60 votes.

"Today is a new day," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said just before the vote, seeking to put a positive stamp on what has been a contentious congressional process for Trump's new administration.

Gorsuch is "going to make an incredible addition to the court", McConnell said. "He's going to make the American people proud."

Gorsuch, 49, has been hailed by Republicans as a worthy successor to conservative justice Antonia Scalia, who died in February 2016 as the presidential race was gaining steam.

Then-president Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland as Scalia's replacement, but McConnell balked, arguing that since it was an election year, the next president should pick the nominee.

The nine-justice court has had one seat on the bench empty for more than a year amid the ensuing political battle, with Democrats and Republicans sliding into bitter attacks and accusations of blame.

The White House has said it expects Gorsuch to be sworn in as early as Monday.

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