Former Colorado appeals court judge Neil M. Gorsuch was sworn in as the 113th Supreme Court’s justice on April 10th. The official public ceremony took place in the Rose Garden, with President Trump, White House staff, and Gorsuch’s family.
According to The Washington Post, the ceremony for Gorsuch signaled the end of a 14-month process to fill former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, who passed away in February of last year. Republicans have now won the battle against the Democratic party in replacing Scalia with a new justice. Tensions had risen high last spring when former president Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals, to fill the seat. The selection sat untouched, as Senate Republicans refused to give any consideration to Obama’s nominee. On January 3rd of this year, the 115th Congress was sworn in, and the tables turned in favor of the GOP. They, and President Trump, could now ensure that Scalia’s replacement held similar values, and would return a conservative majority to the Supreme Court for the near future.
As Republicans had blocked Garland’s nomination to replace Scalia, Democrats decided to return the favor. In late March, NPR’s ‘All Things Considered,’ explained the rocky path in front of the GOP and Gorsuch. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider President Trump’s nominee, and last week Democrats in Congress decided to block the decision with a filibuster. A filibuster is a parliamentary procedure that essentially means to stall a piece of legislation. In this case, it was the swearing-in of Gorsuch. Then, something historical happened; Republicans responded with an amendment to Senate rules.
The “nuclear option,” overrode the filibuster, and will now allow all future Supreme Court nominees to pass through the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority instead of the previous 60-vote threshold. And with a GOP majority, this eliminates the long-standing issue of a divisive Senate when it comes to a controversial vote, at least for the next few years to come.
Justice Gorsuch echoes Scalia’s conservatism, according to a session of ‘All Things Considered’ on NPR in early April. In 2014, Gorsuch and a majority of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the corporation Hobby Lobby had a religious right not to provide birth control as part of health insurance coverage for its majority-female employee base. Gorsuch has openly refused to support public funding for Planned Parenthood, or abortion rights. GOP claims that the new justice can be expected to put forward conservative approaches on the court.