Senate confirms Trump pick Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc Connell of Ky. signals a thumbs-up as he leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday

Deploying the "nuclear option", Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans avoided further deliberation by a Democratic filibuster by lowering the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations.

Senators voted Friday 54-45 in favor of Gorsuch becoming the 113th Supreme Court justice to fill the seat of Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

In late January, President Donald Trump nominated the 49-year-old Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, calling him a "man who our country really needs, and needs badly, to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice". On Thursday, Senate Republicans successfully invoked the so-called "nuclear option", effectively terminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

The GOP decision to ram through the rules change - and their decision past year to block consideration of Judge Merrick Garland, Obama's choice to succeed Scalia - is also likely to further divide an increasingly partisan Senate.

Gorsuch will be sworn in Monday and will quickly begin confronting cases of outcome, including one involving separation of church and state that the justices will take up in less than two weeks. Gorsuch was on a list of potential justices recommended by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation during the campaign, and some Republicans even credit the Supreme Court vacancy as one reason Trump won the November election.

Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the constitutional oath to Mr Gorsuch in a private ceremony in the justices' conference room.

Gorsuch will officially be a member of the court once he takes the two oaths.

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"Certainly this is an important day in the history of the Senate and in the Supreme Court", McConnell told reporters.

WASHINGTON (AP) - After witnessing the grueling confirmation process for Judge Neil Gorsuch, it may be hard to believe people have begged off a seat on the Supreme Court.

Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY calls the rules change "a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court".

FILE - In this March 22, 2017, file photo, Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Gorsuch will be thrust into the final weeks of the Supreme Court's term. There is no way to know how many there will be, if any, but several justices are quite elderly. And it was cause for celebration for conservatives, who have often seemed willing to forgive various Trump failings next to the chance to win this lifetime appointment to the most important court on the land. But others cautioned that the knife cuts both ways and that should Democrats become the majority in the Senate again, Republicans will regret their decision to go "nuclear".

Even as they united in indignation, lawmakers of both parties, pulled by fierce political forces from left and right, were unwilling to stop the confirmation rules change.

"We are writing to urge you to support our efforts to preserve existing rules, practices, and traditions as they pertain to the right of Members to engage in extended debate on legislation before the United States Senate", said the letter that was spearheaded by GOP Sen.

Even as senior Republicans lamented the voting change, McConnell and some allies argued that all they were doing was returning to a time, not long ago, when filibusters of judicial nominees were unusual, and it was virtually unheard-of to try to block a Supreme Court nominee in that fashion.

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